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Brandon Loeser, Lon Gowan, Richard Warren and James Elden in Santasia at the Whitefire Theatre. (Photo by Michael Duisenberg)
Brandon Loeser, Lon Gowan, Richard Warren and James Elden in Santasia at the Whitefire Theatre. (Photo by Michael Duisenberg)

Santasia – A Holiday Comedy

Reviewed by Neal Weaver
Whitefire Theatre
Through December 25 

RECOMMENDED

Santasia has been around for 18 years now (I have personally reviewed it twice before), but it seems as fresh and funny as when it was first created in 2000. It has also built up a loyal fan base; many enthusiasts go back to see it over and over again.

The piece is a nutty, snarky holiday event consisting of a mixture of songs, sketches, and dances, interlarded with videos like “San Andreas Snowman,” about a snow critter who has the misfortune to be built on that famous fault-line. A projected slide informs us that “Santasia has gone green, and 50% of the material has been recycled.” And indeed, many of the individual elements are carried over from year to year, though they may vary a bit in their execution.

The show opens with a video called “Brokeback Igloo,” which gleefully sends up that now- celebrated tale about the romance between two cowboys. That’s followed in short order by a ferocious slapstick snowball fight, while along the way we are treated to send-ups of Hamilton, The Nutcracker, and The Full Monty. The cast members share their favorite Christmas memories, and there are more videos, including “Some Assembly Required,” about a bibulous dad trying to assemble a Christmas bicycle, with startling results. A woman’s love affair with Frosty the Snowman ends tragically — and hilariously. A family squabble occurs when Dad gives Mom a Swiffer for Christmas. And mayhem erupts when Mary and Joseph go on Jerry Springer.

The show traditionally ends with the signature sketch—a sled ride down a steep mountain, acted out in frantic onstage pantomime, with the ensemble playing the landscape that’s speeding by.

The originators of this new holiday tradition are two brothers, Shaun and Brandon Loeser, with the assistance of their wives. Shaun is the director, Brandon is the tech director, and Tania Pearson-Loeser provides the kooky choreography. The animated videos are directed and animated by Michael Granberry. And the versatile cast, headed by the Loeser brothers, includes Lon Gowan, Darren Mangler, Tony Nunes and Jim O’Brien.

 

The Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks. Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 8 p.m.  (818) 990-2324 or www.santasia.com. Running time: one hour and 40 minutes, with one 10-minute intermission.

 

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