Center on the Aisle - NY Off-Broadway
By Anne-Allegra Bennett (@aab_artiste)
As the city immerses itself in the holiday spirit while sporting festive decor and playing holiday songs around town, laughter rings out loud and strong at the St. Luke’s Theatre in the heart of Times Square. The cause of rib-busting hysterics is brought on by those suffering from severe cases of “Santasia.” A cause for celebration for over thirteen years (with annual performances in L.A.), Santasia: A Holiday Comedy has found its way to New York. It is bringing out the joy of the season as six performers embody characters of varying personalities in the style of sketches and Claymation movies that fit in with those one might see on shows such as “Saturday Night Live,” and the “Carol Burnett Show.” Filling the evening with moments that go from touching to hysterical, the skits cover the spectrum of what could happen over the holidays when celebrating with various types of families. From dysfunctional family moments to moving even those with the toughest exteriors, humorous and clever stories unfold. Running close to two hours in length, Santasia: A Holiday Comedy keeps the variety of skits going in a constant flow with barely any time for the performers to change into their next character as they embrace each person they are portraying.
The skits are interspersed with creative and highly entertaining videos telling touching stories, as well as those that are parodies of popular commercials. All have the holiday spirit that comes as a part of the season, and which include the symptoms of “Santasia.” Very prominent during this time of year. Standout moments of the evening are the parodies “Santasia,” “Santasia Line,” and “Snow Block Tango.” Musical theater buffs will recognize these musical numbers as being derived from “Circle of Life” (The Lion King), “I Hope I Get It” (A Chorus Line), and “Cell Block Tango” (Chicago). Cleverly fitting holiday lyrics into the melodies of the popular showtunes, the six performers (Brandon Loeser, Shaun Loeser, James Elden, Lon Gowan, Chey Kennedy, and Richard Lee Warren) bring Tania Pearson-Loeser’s choreography to life as they tell their holiday adventures. The choreography compliments the stories of each of the characters, and brings out some of the best moments of the show. No performer is a star of the show, but they all work together as a well-balanced ensemble that showcases their various personalities and character types. Scene changes are mostly smooth transitions with video clips and Christmas music being played, but there are occasional moments where the transitions are a bit jarring as they aren’t able to move from one scene to the next seamlessly, and which pull away from the flow of the show.
The majority of the show moves at a nice steady pace, but a few of the skits feel out of place and slow the show down, making it feel at times as though too many things are included. A show worth seeing for getting into the holiday spirit and enjoying what it has to offer, and a hit for avid fans of comedy skits. Very unique and creative stories performed with minimal sets and props, but full of imagination and creativity. The joy of the performers carries through from beginning to end, and the characters are brought to life with enthusiasm and passion.
Santasia: A Holiday Comedy is playing at St. Luke’s Theatre (308 West 46th Street) through December 23rd.
It was created by brothers Brandon and Shaun Loeser, and is directed/choreographed by Tania Pearson-Loeser. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.santasia.com. Because of some adult themes and strong language, it’s appropriate for children 13 and over.
Additional creative team members include Wynn Zucchero (lighting design), Stacey Quinealty (musical director), Brandon Loeser (technical director), Tania Pearson-Loeser (movement/choreography/costume designer), Nilton Emilio (stage manager) and Shaun Loeser (director).
Times Square Chronicles - NY Off-Broadway
Santasia Get Your Jolly On
If you believe in flying penguins and the Virgin Mary then Santasia at St Luke’s Theatre is the show for you. Never before have the actors had more fun than the audience and that is saying a lot.
Part SNL, Jerry Springer, Godfather, dysfunctional family, with a cast of Christmas characters and traditions all meshed together to make your side split. This show will have you laughing so hard you’ll be crying.
Returning for the 16th year Santasia is music, dance, video, and humor along with some more serious sides of the season. Imagine six grown men who prance, dance, and sing while portraying three wise men in competition for gifts for the baby Jesus or as take care of your reindeer and get them spaded slides across the screen. My favorite skit was the Jerry Springer DNA test and the toilet roll stocking gift.
There are no Scrooge’s in this group of writers/comedians with a combined total of 24 years experience across the board in TV, film and theater.
Created by two in sync brothers, Brandon and Shaun Loeser, James Elden, Lon Gowan, Chey Kenedy, Rusty Locke, Richard Lee Warren and Thomas Vu all joined in. Shaun besides wearing an elf hat is the director and set designer. The entire team is also the producers of the show.
A special nod to Tania Pearson-Loeser for her excellent choreography. This show is 2 hours of fun and entertainment all wrapped up in a clever delightful way. We recommending taking the Santasia pill, but beware of the side effects…laughter. Santasia: St. Luke’s Theatre, 308 West 46th St.
SANTASIA; A HOLIDAY COMEDY
Written by Gerie Rhosen
Last evening I had the most delightful and unexpected experience at the Whitefire Theater in Sherman Oaks. At the opening of their 16th year, the cast of Santasia:A Holiday Comedy tore the house apart. It is a mash up of holiday cheer and humor drizzled with warmth and memories.
Part musical, part silly, part inspired, this show is wonderful fun for the entire family. An unforgettable comedy-musical spoof of Christmas memories.
If you haven’t seen it before, as was my case, it definitely surprises the senses. The audience gets drawn into multiple skits that highlight the Christmas spirit with laughter and cheer. Thankfully, it is all done in such a great lively and unexpected way, everyone gets involved in the action. Enjoy the music, humor, and especially the heartfelt songs that bring up old memories of the holidays. Hopefully, this review will not give too much away; I think you should witness this one without any per-conceived ideas. It is honestly much different than any production I have seen before.
The perfectly matched casts of six grown men prance, dance, and sing through all the very clever skits. For instance, three wise men in competition for gifts for the baby Jesus; or the usual dysfunctional family Christmas dinner including real devil egg appetizers eaten on stage. And of course all Christmas stories have to include elves. Only this one involves modern day political correctness as a theme. In-between the skits and above the stage is a giant screen that introduces us to several parodies of old movies and ads with its wonderful animated claymation. A few standouts such as “Pulp Christmas", and 'Brokeback Igloo", makes us roar. Thrown into the mix are sentimental holiday stories by each cast member. Some of the other highlights include a story about a little girl and her easy bake oven. It taps beautifully into our memories of Santa and our must have or die wishes. Part of the fun is the audience involvement as well. Go ahead, sing, yell, and laugh at the outrageous pratt falls and musical numbers in holiday drag.
My favorite is the cast scantily clad in 2 piece showgirl outfits gyrating to a retro tune of “I’m a beautiful girl”. It is a hoot!
The Santasia performers are a mix of actors, comedians and writers, with well over 25 years combined experience in film, television and stage.
Originally started in a small theater in North Hollywood, this show has blossomed into a full stage production full of penguins, snow, Christmas lights and sledding. These skits tickle the senses. This holiday delight was created by and stars two very talented brothers, Brandon and Shaun Loeser. Also contributing to this vivacious show are: James Elden, Lon Gowan, Chey Kennedy, Rusty Locke, and Richard Lee Warren. It is an ensemble of very smart and creative performers. Behind the scenes Shaun is the director, set designer, and co-writes the show with his brother and some of the cast. They are also the producers of the show. A special nod to the choreographer of this show, Tania Pearson-Loeser. This show is so good that it can be compared to the variety shows of yesterday such as; Carol Burnett or the Kids in the Hall. It is definitely more than 2 hours of silliness, it is clever, funny, and overall extremely entertaining.
Santasia is not just a winner for the Whitefire Theater, it is a winner for the audience as well. Bryan Rasmussen, the artistic director for the Whitefire is so wise to stage this production there. Too bad these actors can’t get together in summertime and do something just as outrageous and fun. After all, laughter and parody are very much needed at all times of the year. The staging is perfect. Set with many multicolored Christmas trees, a fireplace, and the front of a snow covered home, it feels like the holidays.
Hopefully there are tickets still available.
TONY FRANKEL on DECEMBER 30, 2012
Sometimes in life, it’s the last Christmas present we open that makes up for all the lousy ones we unwrapped before. In what is truly the most dismal season of holiday-themed shows, I happened upon one on Christmas Eve which, unbeknownst to me, has been an annual event for 13 years. Santasia: A Holiday Comedy came to my attention from an Ovation voter who saw the Kids in the Hall-type, holiday-themed Vaudeville last year when this tender and irreverent entertainment was Ovation-nominated as Best Production of the Year.
Produced and created by siblings Shaun and Brandon Loeser,Santasia is a stocking stuffer of a show, 22 gifts in all: Dysfunctional family sketches, musical parodies ofThe Lion King and Chicago, skits (including a Nutcracker andWilliam Tell Overture sleigh-ride ballet), and more have attracted a loyal fan base that has the show selling out every night (returnees will always see something new). Does it sound crazy that I knew I was in for something special when I was greeted by snowfall in front of the theater? Inside the lobby, it was as if a party was in full swing, with hot apple cider and yummy homemade cookies working their way around the cramped space.
The co-performers and -writers along with the Loesers are James Elden, Andrew J. Hillis, Lon Gowan, and Rusty Locke; and while their alumni status with Second City, Comedy Sportz, and iO (formerly known as “ImprovOlympic”) certainly shows in the slick and silly skits, the event was so unpretentious that I couldn’t shake the feeling of nostalgia, as if I was home with family celebrating the holidays. The icing on the sugar cookie was a series of remembrances from each of the cast that actually had me choking up; it’s clear that this elfish crew really want to celebrate the holidays with joy. The press release is spot-on when the show is proclaimed as a “perfect blend of yuletide snark and sentiment.” It also doesn’t hurt that, unlike the atrocious Twist Your Dickens by Second City, these guys never beat a dead horse with their comedy: A sketch involving the Virgin Mary on Jerry Springer wisely ended with us wanting more. The cast also featured Art Oden.
Leitmotifs of Easy-Bake Ovens, discontented elves, a penguin, and an Abominable Snow Monster are spread not just through the sketches but in highly polished films. The live-action and animated shorts are beyond impressive:
“Brokeback Igloo” is a parody done “Coming Attraction”-style about a pair of men who escape to the mountains to make toys…and love; while the premise is humorous, it is actually quite moving in its earnestness. An homage to stop-motion Rankin/Bass “Animagic”* can be seen in a few shorts, but “Pulp Christmas” (directed and animated by Michael Granberry), which is about – you guessed it – two of Santa’s hit-elves, is not only funny, but disturbing.
Shaun Loeser’s scenic design is keenly in reverence to the imposing decorations he remembers from his childhood, and Dave Watson must have had a ball stringing up all of those lights. Tania Pearson-Loeser did double-duty by not only stitching together a slew of preposterous outfits, but doling out some delightful and wholly original choreography.
My only quibble is that Shaun Loeser, as director, didn’t keep his cast (including himself) from screaming for comic effect – there’s a fine line between a misbehaving child and volume that makes your teeth chatter. Also, since the show clocks in at almost two hours, the very nature of sketch comedy demands a break (plus, I was dying for more of those cookies).
It’s a relief to know that I don’t have to buy a plane ticket to see family next year – I just have to drive to Sherman Oaks.
NoHo Arts District / BroadwayWorld.com
Written by Don Grigware
This is my fifth visit to Santasia, my first time seeing it @ the Whitefire, and I must admit within six years the show has gotten tighter and better, without losing a morsel of its unique comedic charm. Brothers Shaun and Brandon Loeser and four other actors: Andrew J. Hillis, James Elden, Lon Gowan, and Art Oden sing, dance, act and fool around as chums tend to do in a nonstop, side-splitting bevy of sketches not unlike those of Saturday Night Live, where good old silliness reigns supreme.
Variety is at the core of the show, and the highlights include not only the sketches, but musical numbers too - and some surprises. Each of the actors presents a favorite Christmas memory. Hillis' involves his dad always picking out a sparse Charlie Brown Christmas tree, which with large
decorations in strategic places and a lot of love, became the best of the crop. Shaun Loeser's is a bit more dramatic about an extra-special father/son relationship filled with arguments and love. There are infectiously funny chorus numbers with all six guys parodying A Chorus Line, Chicago and The Full Monty - with toys on the kids' and elves' minds - nicely choreographed by Tania Pearson-Loeser. Then there are an abundance of off-the-wall comic sketches like the one involving three contemporary wise men appraising their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, or the one about a dysfunctional family Christmas dinner, or reluctantly putting up the Christmas lights on the roof to please dear old dad, Santa's workshop run Mafia style, and my favorite of all, Sledding, about a disastrous bob sled ride down a snow-covered mountain.
Interspersed with the live scenarios and musical numbers are priceless short film segments - even a commercial or two - with some pretty great claymation including Pulp Christmas, San Andreas Snowman and Penguins Don't Fly. That little plastic penguin on top of the Loeser kids' roof in Chicago has become over the years the standout character - practically their mascot - in this delightfully hilarious and clean family show. There are several scenes with some of the men in drag, but all for fun - and in the best of taste. Brandon Loeser's little sister Chrissy and the quietly seductive piano barfly come immediately to mind here - a hoot! My love for Santasia is undiminished after eleven years. It's a cult hit for its legions of fans. So, if you haven't joined that list yet, hurry and get to the Whitefire between now and Christmas Eve. Buy tix now as they are selling out fast!
The return of SANTASIA: A HOLIDAY COMEDY, a ludicrous look on the holiday season that’s decked out in red and green (with a dash of blue and white), makes its mark at The Whitefire Theater in Sherman Oaks.
A cast of eight players consisting of James Elden, Lon Gowan, Andrew J. Hillis, Brandon Loeser, Shaun Loeser, and Art Oden, featuring Stephen Monroe Taylor, perform in a series of skits, blackouts, and other shapes of stage playdom that focus on the December holidays with an emphasis on Christmas. On stage, the skits range in topic such as the three wise men debating over their gifts to the kid in the stable, a group of other kids putting up lights on their house through their old man’s directions, a family get together highlighting grandma’s deviled eggs, a father guessing what gift his kids got him when he should have guessed wrong, and lots more!
Between skits projected on a big screen behind the “Christmas Village”-type stage set are more short pieces that enhance this comic showcase such as trailers for movies that should be made, TV commercials that one won’t see anywhere else, and the rest of the video bits pay minor homage to those stop motion animated Xmas specials that Rankin-Bass created for broadcast TV a few generations beforehand!
This show performs in the tradition to a vaudeville presentation, but created to an audience that may not know what “vaudeville” is (or was!) In spite of its variety, the show itself very witty, lively, upbeat, a bit racy at times, and even charming and sentimental(!) as these players make merry showing to their spectators that the Holiday season (Christmas, Hanukkah, et. al.) can be much of a pain as it is a pleasure!
The comedy, written and performed by its cast, has nearly everything; The for noted humor aspect, snappy musical review pieces with choreography by Tania Pearson-Loeser, and even a few other surprises all performed under the direction of Shaun Loeser.
Sure, one can spend the season attending the theater. There are plenty of Nutcrackers and Christmas Carols to patronize out there! But for those that seek to be different, SANTASIA won’t give you a lump of coal in your stocking! In fact, it’s like a getting a pile of chocolate gold coins and one doesn't have to spin any top in the process! But unlike those family shows, it’s best to leave the youngin’s at home for this one! It’s unofficial theme is “F#@k You-It’s Christmas!” This line may not bring any peace on earth, but it’s sure funny! Oh, yes! Don’t miss out on the 3-D portion of the show! It’s terrific!! (3-D glasses will be provided without any additional surcharge. What a deal!)
SoCal.com Theatre Review
By Jennifer Fordyce
Santasia is a non-stop series of comedic holiday skits in the likes of Saturday Night Live and
The Kids in the Hall and is not only recommended but required to official kick-off the sugar-filled bliss of the holiday season. For almost 10 years now, Santasia continues to revamp the classics of the holiday season from Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer to the Abominable Snowman into a multimedia production that drives Los Angeles theatre patrons into a fit of laughter while evoking memories from childhood and the angst of believing in a fat guy in a red suit that may or may not leave you a gift on Christmas day.
The smell of home-baked cookies floods your senses as the sight of a luminescent snow-covered house in holiday décor beckons you inside the theatre. What follows can only be described as a wild comical cocktail mix of holiday madness made of 1 part classic holiday nostalgia, 1 part holiday mockery of popular movies and television series and 6 guys willing to bare it all (well, almost) all in the name of good ol’ holiday cheer.
Director and Actor Shaun Loeser, along with his talented and energetic cast including James Elden, Lon Gowan, Andrew J. Hillis, Brandon Loeser and Art Oden, give a mesmerizing and hilarious performance as they morph from being thug reindeer to rap-dancing elves to telling their own true holiday memories.
Classic mix of holiday tunes and hip-hop grooves along with Tania L. Peason-Loeser’s choreography magically transform the cast of Santasia into dancing syncopated holiday drag queens, toboggan riders being catapulted through the air and Nutcracker-inspired tutu wearing ballerinas. The live theatrical performances of Santasia are interspersed with animator Michael Granberry/Red Hatchet Film’s hysterical spoofs including “Pulp Christmas”, “The Kringles” and “Brokeback Igloo”, written by Shaun Loeser.
By the end, Santasia leaves you with a warm fuzzy feeling that makes you remember what the holidays is all about – loving the people you are with and not caring that much that Susie got the Easy Bake Oven and you didn’t.
‘Santasia: A Holiday Comedy'
Is Hysterical and Heartwarming
By Margie Barron
A Holiday Comedy is so enormously entertaining, the seasonal
romp is going into its seventh year. It features amazingly
versatile actors who hold nothing back as they embrace and
skewer all the iconic moments of the holidays. The silly and
the sacred, nothing is missed as they go through a
of sketches that deal with everything
from putting up the “@#!!*in” Christmas
lights, to the Magi squabbling about their gifts. The
folks at Saturday Night Live could take lessons from Santasia's
cast of mirth-making elves, who collaborated as the writers
of this holiday gem.
brothers Brandon and Shaun (the director) Loeser produce
the show and perform along with James Elden, Lon Gowan,
Andrew J. Hillis, Art Oden and “Big
Dave” Mattey. All outrageously funny, but each
a turn at sharing a personal Christmas
brief moments give the show its heart, in-between the relentless,
but enjoyable, craziness.
numbers are presented by the over-grown elves (doing the “almost” Full
Monty!). Cleverly filmed movie spoofs, along with animation,
and several “commercial
breaks” add a multimedia dimension to the high-energy
show. The wild runaway bobsled finale, done in pantomime,
will leave you laughing and breathless.
A Holiday Comedy
David C. Nichols
wacky, yule be of good cheer.
the night before Christmas and the elves went on strike,
for imperial Santa wouldn't grant a pay hike. That is
all one needs know about "Santasia Episode V: A
Holiday Comedy," which concludes its shamelessly
entertaining run Sunday.
by certifiable siblings Shaun and Brandon Loeser, "Santasia
Episode V" represents a high point for this annual
holiday howler. In concept and execution,
what could happen if the "Kids in the Hall" crew
got into Grandma's kitchen and laced all the fruitcake
Easy-Bake Oven-light premise, created by its daft cast,
strings together diverse leitmotifs — George Lucas, "Pulp
Fiction," the Rankin/Bass animated specials, family
dysfunction, ad infinitum — into a yuletide blowout
that plays by and on its own crazed terms, with hilarious
Oden's robust Santa shifts into Brando's Don Corleone,
while director Shaun Loeser's union- organizing
elf becomes a Rudolph-nosed Joe Pesci. Brandon Loeser's
piano bar elegy to the snowman that
away is priceless; so are Michael Alvarado and R.C. Ormond
as Santa's Tarantino-flavored hit men.
and colleagues James Elden, Andrew J. Hillis and David
Mattey fearlessly throw their elfin selves into Tania
L Pearson-Loeser's hysterical choreography and costumes,
only to deliver real-life anecdotes with immense personal
by-committee technical effort demonstrates high wit,
especially the remarkable video segments, and the wonderful
toboggan-ride finale fractured me. Some R-rated language
makes "Santasia" dubious for preteens, and
that's about the worst thing I can say for this demented,
delightful seasonal display.
A Holiday Comedy
Pick of the Week
Pick of the Week
Santasia boys return with their perfect blend of Yuletide
snark and sentiment. The all-dude sketch-comedy troupe
has preserved many of the best bits in this show’s
seventh annual incarnation, including a snowball brawl
set to “O Fortuna,”
Suite” performed with stubble, and an ingenious spoof
on Eminem that leaves Santa watching his back.
as important is the sloppy, daffy joy that comes from
being soused by Christmas spirits and slapping on a tutu
and elf hat. In fact, there’s so much casual cheer
that a technical difficulty with a canned ham left the
cast sniggering through the next scene. When not riffing
on Hollywood with Joe Pesci
and rambling tête-à-têtes between Santa’s
hit men Vincent and Jules, the boys poke fun at the family
ordeals ribboned in with the festivities, from the slave
labor of hanging Dad’s grandiose Xmas lights to smiling
past the family bigot.
What makes the jabs so striking is the affection behind them. “The
things you hate and dread in life become the things you love and miss the
most,” says director Shaun Loeser in his monologue — a fitting
theme for the evening.
A Holiday Comedy
Back Stage West
may not be A Christmas Carol, but Santasia, now in its
fifth year, has staked its claim for one of NoHo's annual
theatrical traditions. And while this sketch comedy,
presented by capable Chicago and Los Angeles improv veterans,
isn't Charles Dickens, it is a funny and intelligent
holiday romp. Directed by Shaun Loeser, who appears in
the cast of eight with his brother Brandon, this music-
and parody-filled 90-
succeeds because the
pacing is sharp, the sketches are short, there are several
outstanding video segments, and
there is a genuinely
There are probably too many sketches--almost 30 in total--but
the few weak ones are easily overshadowed by a bounty of
mix of new segments and pieces from previous productions
begins with a parody of the opening song in The Lion
King, as the residents of the North Pole sing a greeting
to Santa. The series of projected video pieces includes
a multipart takeoff of The Empire Strikes Back, in which
editor David Mattey skillfully has placed two elves smack
into the middle of the scene in which Luke Skywalker
battles a snow monster. The parodies are the strong suit
of Santasia, the funniest being "Pulp Christmas." Michael
Alvarado and R.C. Ormond, who are spot-on as John Travolta
and Samuel L.
re-enact scenes from Pulp Fiction, as they retrieve a red
sack for their boss, Mr. Claus. Interspersed with the outrageous
bits are heartfelt monologues about each performer's favorite
Christmas memory. And the finale, a wild sled ride set
to the "William Tell Overture," is as creative
as it is humorous.
Loeser keeps his cast from the type of hammy acting that
tends to sabotage sketch comedy. His set design--a house
with gaudy decorations and a comfy living room--is impressive,
given how small the stage is. Loeser is ably assisted
by the simple but effective choreography created by Tania
L Pearson-Loeser. This is a cast clearly having fun,
and fortunately it's contagious. Let's hope there's an
episode VI next year.
A Holiday Comedy
a hoot! This holiday spoof is side-splittingly hilarious
and brilliantly original! These eight men are bursting
with energy, creativity, talent, and an uncanny sense
of comedy. Alumni of Chicago’s Improv Olympic,
Second City, and L.A.’s ComedySportz, this tribe
of zany, brainy guys have written a manic set of vignettes
that have been packing the house for five years in NoHo.
Taking us from uncontrollable laughter to heart-rending
Christmases in 29 quick scenes, this nut cake show is a
do they think up this stuff? Under the razor sharp direction
of Shaun Loeser, the performances are full throttle throughout!
There’s no shame, no egos, no limits, and no star
playing here – just a crazy bunch of regular guys
who view life from a slightly skewed angle, and are here
for the pure (and not so pure) fun of it all. One lively
scene is funnier than the last with a large screen overhead,
sporadically interjecting filmed sequences too.
They recently picked up three Artistic Director Awards at the El Portal
Choreographer Tania L Pearson-Loeser ran away with an
award for her amazing skill at moving these goofy guys
around the stage, at 100-miles-an-hour.
kudos to eight of the zaniest men on earth! They are
Shaun William Loeser, Michael Alvarado, James Elden,
Andrew J. Hillis, Brandon Loeser, “Big Dave” Mattey,
R.C. Ormond and Art Oden. Just wait till you see them
perform a nearly “Full Monty” dance production
number, as Santa’s striking elves! Unforgettably
funny! Give yourself a holiday laugh break and see this
hit extravaganza this year.
of the Week
of the Week
When’s the last time you saw a show
with a sledding choreographer, a visit from the Gollum, stunt
elves and a kung fu Santa? Brothers Brandon and Shaun William
Loeser, producers,performers, designer/directors and all-
around lunatics, have been producing their freewheeling Santasia shows
for six Christmases, and they’ve mastered the art. Starting with
the opening number (“All Those Toys”), in which Santa and his
legged elves perform Rockette kicks and butt-
slapping faux Bob Fosse routines (choreographed by Tania L Pearson), it’s
a crazy ride. There’s a Brando-esque Mafioso Santa with Rudolf as
his red-nosed enforcer, a couple of acrimonious
family Christmases, a silent movie called “The Meager
Trinket,” and “Deer Eye for the Fat Guy,” in
which Santa’s slightly fey reindeer give him an instant
makeover. Best of all are the whacked-out, no-holds-barred
pantomime interludes, including acrobatic martial arts, a
zanily sadistic snow fight, and a hair-raisingly hilarious
bobsled ride set to “The William Tell Overture.” The
multitalented Loesers and their cohorts (Michael Alvarado,
James Elden, Andrew J. Hillis, “Big Dave” Mattey
and Art Oden) have cooked up a Christmas confection that’s
nutty as a fruitcake and twice as tasty.
your holiday mind
Santa has pissed off the elves, confronted the devil and been issued
a parking ticket while stopping to deliver some gifts. Now it seems
as if he and Neo have only 72 hours to redeem
Zion, save Trinity and
deliver toys to all of the good little boys and girls of
“Santasia Reloaded,” with
it’s titular nod to the Matrix series, is an inventive
comedy now in its sixth season in NoHo. Past sketches
have included “Elves Gone Wild,” a holiday
jab at the spring break softcore video series and a parody
of Eminem’s “Stan” featuring a chorus
of angels standing in for trance-pop diva Dido.
Utilizing every inch of the stage, the players
sled, prance and dance maniacally before a kitschy set including
lawn penguins, candy canes and shoddy pine trees. It all
amounts to a 90-minute, Wonka-fied yuletide send-up of Hollywood
blockbusters and LA’s celebrity culture that’s
so riddled with lowbrow humor and clever social commentary
that the nimble, six-man cast rarely come across as anything
less than perfection.
all the way:
elves are mad as hell, and they're not going to take it anymore.
a nutshell, that's the thin but serviceable conceit behind "Santasia
Rocks," a wacky evening of Christmas-themed sketch comedy running
through this weekend at the Whitmore-Lindley Theatre in NoHo (make
that NoHoHoHo.) A critic could have a field day belaboring comical
metaphors for "Santasia." Let's just say this production
a lot like a holiday cheese log
-- a cheesy filling
of dubious origin surrounded by a bunch of nuts. In this
case, the nuts are the show's ensemble --Michael Alvarado,
Chris Cause, Kit Davlin, Andrew J. Hillis, Erick Lopez,
Brandon Loeser and Shaun William Loeser. Brothers, the
Loesers produced the newly reworked show, originally developed
in Chicago, for its third Los Angeles engagement. The latter
filberts all, the performers roll in the prevalent cheesiness
with infectious abandon. And Shaun Loeser's scenic design
-- all glitz and tinsel and hilariously low-budget "effects" --
is in the same
cheesy vein. If the cheese images are wearing thin, let's
jumble the metaphor.
ensemble-scripted material ("Santasia" gets
the writing credit here) is a mixed bag, including a
few packages that should be returned to sender. More
often than not, though, the bountiful laughs come tightly
wrapped. Interstitial video segments, including the parody
promo "Elves Gone Wild," is a gold-plated hoot.
The movement sequences, such as a mimed sledding sketch,
smartly executed on this tiny stage, are particularly
inspired. And the evening's finale is a side-splitter
that may leave your rental Santa suit in shreds.
A Holiday Comedy
both rabid and topless, wreak peppermint-fueled havoc
in an evening of holiday-themed sketch comedy. An athletic
provides the wrapping for this 90-minute package of
it around recurring bits involving a meat-head father
and economic strife at the North Pole.
or, more likely, because none of the ensemble has classical
dance training, the best giddiness ensues when the
posse prances straight-
to a variety of musical accompaniments.
Eminem gets ribboned
into the action with the
a chorus of angels that best Dido in panache, if not singing
Shaun Loeser's decadently lunatic set comes complete with
three trees, glowing penguins and a phalanx of ceramic
the tinseled barrage, each actor takes a moment to
share his favorite Christmas memory with the audience,
helping demonstrate the comparative entertainment value
of sincerity - whether with sentimentality or buffoonery
- over sarcasm.
A Holiday Comedy
Christmas Eve and Satan's at the door. You invite him
in. It is Christmas, after all, and it's not his fault
your small child inadvertently spelled "Satan" instead
of "Santa" in his "What I want for Christmas" letter.
What the hell--Satan needs somewhere to go on Christmas,
too, and you've never been one to turn away a wayward
soul. Plus he's brought gifts.
you've had the devil at your door before, you're bound
to get a kick out of this wonderfully impish holiday
and performed by alumni of Chicago's Second City, ImprovOlympic,
the genius of noted comedy teacher Del Close,
techniques are evident throughout the show. It is refreshing
to see a company unafraid to explore the standard tricks
of comedy. And though the ensemble is living dangerously
onstage, the precision of the comedic formulas it uses
makes it very easy for the audience to just sit back, enjoy,
The Carol Burnett Show, Santasia 2001 works so well
because of its seamless marriage of well-rehearsed
physical gags and well-
Claus slapped with a parking ticket as he's trying
to deliver presents is a funny idea, but the execution
and physical dance of Santa cuffed and sprayed with
mace, combined with the image of his reindeer being
booted, is laugh-out-loud funny.
Durmick, Andrew Hillis, Brandon Loeser, Shaun Loeser,
Cory Rouse, and Chris Flowers are strong as
but powerful as an ensemble. The final sketch involving
a runaway sled is comedic perfection because of the intricate
weak moments here are so outweighed by the sheer madness
and good cheer of the piece as a whole that they can
be easily overlooked, if not forgotten altogether.
is certainly rare that a holiday show tangibly promotes
good cheer, but it seems to be the primary mission
of this piece. Between the eggnog and cookies served
before the show and the holiday cards addressed and
handed out to audience members during the show, the
gang does everything in its power to embrace its audience,
and it works.
the greatest ingredient in this largely bacchanalian
mix may be the sprinkling of very honest, simple "fireside
stories" that transport us and remind us of our
own childhoods of winter bliss and holidays at home.
by Don Grigware
now at the Secret Rose in North Hollywood, is a real
hoot for lovers of comedy improv and Christmas nostalgia.
Outside the theater, Santa's elves on strike carry picket
signs that read "Down with Santa." However,
inside the lobby the aroma of cinnamon and the walls
decked out with boughs of holly put Grandma's old-fashioned
X-mas preparations to shame. This mixed bag sets the
tone for an off--the-wall evening of laughs and memories.
fun-loving actors, who participate in the writing and
direction, open and close the proceedings with uproarious
pantomime. The show opens with a raucous snowball
and ends in a disastrous bobsled ride. Along the way there
is a irreverent verbal sparring contest between Jesus and
Hercules, and even a physical match between Santa and Michael
Myers (of Halloween fame). In one very amusing sketch Santa
is surprised by a father in drag, who proceeds to seduce
lively old St. Nick. The chase that ensues continues to
interrupt sketches through the remainder of the show. Despite
some lame silliness, Jon Hughes, Andy Dylan, Chris Durmick,
Christopher Flowers, and real life brothers Brandon and
Shaun Loeser continually keep the audience in stitches.
These guys have energy to spare and enough enthusiasm for
another millennium of Christmases.
Durmick does a terrific turn as a father (a great Jimmy
Stewart vocal impersonation) confessing an embarrassing
Eve moment. The piéce-de-resistance is a godfather
Santa and his reindeer as bodyguards telling off a striking
elf. In response to his demands for pay, they admonish
the elf with, "This a not for profit organization."
Favorite Christmas Memory" has each cast member
recalling one childhood Christmas. It is a touching segment,
as Brandon and Shaun recently lost their dad to a bout
with cancer. As in a choice for a time capsule, each
actor presents a souvenir that will immortalize his story.
Great living room and rooftop set, and beautifully trimmed
tree by stage manager Tracey McAvoy top off this evening
of infectious laughter for everyone. It guarantees to
bring back a favorite memory or two. You've just got
to love that Christmas penguin!
Theatrical gift found in
grown up Santasia
By Amy Lyons
no wonder that Santasia, the holiday
show currently packing in audiences at the Whitefire Theatre,
has been running for seven years. The seasonal sketch comedy
is rooted in well-polished parody that takes edgy risks to
amp up the funny factor, but poignancy wanders in at just
the right moments, tempering the sometimes strictly adult
humor with honest musings on the spirit of the season. Produced
by brothers Brandon and Shaun Loeser, both of whom act in
the show and the latter of whom also directs, the cast of Santasia is
comprised of seven guys who are unafraid to get really goofy.
Each man contributes a unique comedic skills-set to the overall
show and together they work as a well-oiled machine. A small
film spoofing The Matrix and V for Vendetta sets
the tone for the show and gets people chuckling from the
get go. By interweaving the
character of Santa into the story lines and exaggerating
the more melodramatic moments of each film, the Santasia crew
away shows themselves to be experts in parody. “What
if the prophecy is true?” says a character resembling
the rebel-warrior Morpheus in The Matrix. “What
if Santa Claus is coming to town?” Things get even more
fun when the film ends and the men appear on stage. An early
musical number pokes fun at the Lion King theme song, The
Circle of Life, while a later song in the show
finds Shaun Loeser hitting a comedic home run as a little kid
who takes crazed aim at Santa to the tune of rapper Eminem’s
Stan, a song originally about fan-mail gone bad. The shenanigans
continue throughout and the pleasure factor increases as the
audience becomes privy to a real slice of each Santasia boy’s
life via autobiographical monologues peppered between the bouts
of high-energy, hilarious antics. It is not easy to take an
audience from zany sketches that invoke full throttle guffaws
to more subtle moments that require calm attention, but this
cast knows exactly how to keep audiences engaged at all times.
More film clips, mostly parodies, are interspersed amongst
the live action creating an alternating
stage to screen that prevents the pace from stalling and
allows for the exploration of a wide range of material.
Some of the live scenes have no dialogue, but still manage
to tell complete stories via music and physical acting.
The set is a Christmas gift in and of itself, with multiple
decorated trees and the facade of a house that beams and
winks with garish holiday decorations. The house is a centerpiece
for a sketch that is clearly an autobiographical account
of Christmases past at the Loeser household, complete with
a father who shouts and bellows as the boys do all the
decorating against their will. More meaning is given to
the sketch with Shaun’s subsequent show-stopping
monologue that is a heartfelt homage to his father. There
is much more to say about Santasia, but the enjoyment
should be witnessed first-hand. From David “Big Dave” Mattey’s
booming voice on “Santasia Light’s Real Men
of Genius” to Andrew Hillis’ hilarious portrayal
of an elf getting down to rhythm and blues jams when no one
is looking, the laughter and camaraderie created by this
cast is truly a gift.
Santasia—A Holiday Comedy is back for its 9th annual potpourri of skits, videos, musical production numbers, and recollections of Christmases past—and what a show it is, whether you’re someone who’s enjoyed the all-male cast’s wackiness in years past, or a newbie like me. Of all the Christmas shows I’ve seen this season, Santasia is quite possibly the best blend of comedy and heart.
The “Loser’s Kids” (yes, that’s what they call themselves) are James Elden, Lon Gowan, Andrew J. Hillis, brothers Brandon and Shaun Loeser, and Art Oden, who’ve been rightly compared to The Kids In The Hall in their offbeat humor and often gender-bending characters.
Santasia begins even before the talented sextet make their first appearance, with multiplex-style “pre-show entertainment” projected above the show’s very Christmassy set. Ads for supposed North Pole businesses alternate with trivia questions and “unscramble the letters” puzzles. Company members appear in several “Previews Of Coming Attractions” including an absolutely hilarious one for Brokeback Igloo, the tale of two fishing buddies in love—complete with “I wish I could quit you” and some man-on-man smooching.
Santasia’s Christmas-themed skits are almost uniformly winners, especially:
•“Two Camels And A Donkey,” which features the Three Magi arguing about the gifts they’ve brought the baby Jesus. “What’s wrong with myrrh?” complains one of them, while another tells the gold-bearing Wise Man “I thought we’d agreed on a limit!”
•“Guess What Daddy???”, an opening-presents-on-Christmas morning treat with the priceless line, “What? A Swiffer for Christmas?!?”
•“f!@#$’ Lights!!!!”, featuring a dad and his sons decorating their house with lights galore and “a
goddamn fucking penguin” on the roof—just trying to get it done so they can watch the game on TV.
Then there are the sensationally funny production numbers with choreography by Tania L. Pearson-Loeser (Shaun’s wife). These include
•An outrageously funny A Chorus Line” spoof, to the tune of “I Hope I Get It” with “tiny tots” (the men in kids’ clothes and little girl drag) making their Christmas wishes to the music of Marvin Hamlisch: (Insert ACL melody) “I really need this bike. Please God, I need this bike. I've got to get this bike.”
•“How Do I Look?”, with the cast clad only in miniskirts and Christmas-themed bikini tops dancing (semi-)gracefully to the oh-so-chic sounds of “Stylish Girl” by Dimitri From Paris.
•A Full Monty take-off (pun intended) with the “studs” of Santasia doing their Chippendales best to the pulsating beat of Tom Jones’ “You Can Leave Your Hat On.” (The boys may not be as fit as fitness models, but they sure can shake their groove things.)
Sandwiched between these wild and crazy skits and production numbers are videos as well as tales of the cast members’ Christmases past. There is a series of deliberately artsy-fartsy black-and-white “ads” for Santasia Perfume by Kris Kringle, directed by Brandon Loeser and Lon Gowan, a TMZ spoof featuring a paparazzo who stalks both Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer and TV’s Jim J. Bullock, and “Pulp Christmas,” a foul-mouthed claymation-style Christmasization of the Tarantino classic. (First-class animation by Red Hatchet Films and Michael Granberry.)
The “heart” of Santasia comes in the series of Christmas memory monologs by each of the “Loser’s Kids.” Lon recalls going home to his parents’ Christmas Tree farm in Vermont, where the highlight of his mom’s Christmas morning is gifting unsuspecting guests with a
“Ta Ta Daaaa”. (You’ll have to see Santasia to find out what a “Ta Ta Daaaa” is and what it means.) Art recalls the Christmas morning he found nothing under the Christmas Tree, while James reminisces about how his brother, his sister, and he used to dance for their mom to “The Little Drummer Boy” by Johnny Mathis. Andrew recalls his dad’s inevitable purchase of the cheapest, scrawniest $10 tree on the lot, and then explains just why Dad always bought the cheapest one. Brandon remembers the Christmas when he found out that his mom wasn’t the only one allergic to evergreens, while Brandon’s brother Shaun recalls his and Brandon’s dad’s 6 a.m. all-day Christmas projects, when only three TV shows could get him to take a break, the tale ending on a heartwarming note that just may bring tears to your eyes as it did to mine.
The evening’s 90 minutes of comedy and musical magic ends with the best and biggest production number of all, a “Dance Of The Sugarplum Fairy” (of course the guys wear tutus) which turns into a truly exhilarating sleigh ride down the mountain to the strains of the Lone Ranger’s signature “William Tell Overture.”
Writers/stars Elden, Gowan, Hillis, Loeser & Loeser, and Oden are terrifically zany alumni of Chicago’s Improv Olympic and Second City and L.A.’s Comedy Sportz whose work here couldn’t be funnier or more inspired. Shaun Loeser, the show’s whiz of a director, designed the Christmas-trees-and-lights-filled set and Brandon Loeser was in charge of the show’s eclectic soundtrack. The very Christmasy lighting (and lights) were designed by Dave Watson.
Most of this season’s holiday shows are closing on Sunday, but Santasia runs through Christmas night. Demand is sure to be high for its final performances, so make your reservations right away…or you’ll have to wait a whole year till Santasia is (I hope I hope!) back for its not-to-be-missed 10th Anniversary edition.