Get Cultured — December 16, 2014 at 11:20 am

“Christmas With The Crawfords” It’s a Blast From the Past and It Feels Like It

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New York City, the perfect spot to have a holiday vacation. The lights are brighter here, the streets are full of the red and green, and everyone has a gay ol’ time. At least that’s what you will do if you head down to the Lower East Side of this beautiful city and enjoy a little holiday spirit with Joey Arias and company as they present to us “Christmas With The Crawfords.” An entertaining take on Christina Crawford’s memoir’s “Mommie Dearest,” we take a look at what Christmas will be like in Joan’s Crawford’s house, with a variety of guests showing up and stealing scene upon scene.

The show made me feel like I was watching a Christmas event as I came in. The set was beautiful and professional. The costumes were out of this world, and the lighting immerses us in this wild ride. The musical numbers were the best thing about the show, both bringing us smiles and sometimes even impressing us with the choreography. Wish I could say the same about the rest. There’s no real huge problem with the book of the show itself. It’s funny. For a certain audience. I laughed, because I know “Mommie Dearest.” I laughed, because I study film and Hollywood icons in college. If you didn’t, if you don’t know who Joan Crawford is, and the impact the “Mommie Dearest” book had, you will miss half of the jokes. And that’s what happened to the person I came with that night. She knows enough about it to enjoy it, but most jokes were not as funny to her. And as I looked around, seeing everybody was laughing more than us, I noticed the audience was all in their forties or older. The house was packed, and we were definitely the youngest people by probably ten to fifteen years. And that’s how the show felt, like it was really funny ten to fifteen years ago – when it opened in San Francisco, it was perfect. The subject matter was still relevant, and everybody could enjoy the show. But this drag holiday extravaganza, which was performed with such high energy, felt tired. The jokes outdated, and some of them even insensitive for these times. For example, Hattie McDaniel dressed as a servant like her famous character, even though she is carrying an Oscar and is going to Gary Cooper’s party. A party Joan wasn’t invited to. I know it’s supposed to be a wink to the audience, but you have a lot of those through the show and it wasn’t needed there.

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As outdated as the show feels, some performances bring it up in the sense of entertainment. Connie Champagne as Judy Garland was amazing, and so was Sherry Vine as both Baby Jane and Hedda Hopper. Joey Arias, was almost flawless if I didn’t feel like he was stiff on his dance numbers. I couldn’t tell if it was part of the show, or if the corset was limiting his movement. Either way, it took points from an otherwise crisp act. The kids were a mixed bag. I had a lot of fun watching Adam Davidson go over the top and enjoying himself on stage. On the other hand, Chris March from Project Runway fame, should have stayed in costume duty as he was stale from the first five minutes on. The rest of the cast did their job well enough where you were entertained the whole time.

And that’s it. You will be entertained, you will have fun. This is a drag show Christmas extravaganza, how can you not? Yet, once it’s done, you start seeing how nothing stuck with you. Nothing was really said. It’s all about the source material, and the source material is not relevant anymore. The new generation barely knows who Joan Crawford is, and the older generation will see this show and enjoy it more out of nostalgia. For us, it’s the equivalent of watching a 90’s movie we used to love, and re-watching it just to find out it hasn’t aged well. We are in New York City, people, break new grounds here. This just thread an old path for a couple of laughs and a fleeting good time. But what a good time it was.

The show will be running till December 27th at the ABRONS ARTS CENTER (466 Grand Street, New York, NY). If you know the source material, are deep into the drag scene, and enjoy holiday shows, go watch it. Directed and Choreographed by Donna Drake, the show will treat you to a grand old time, just don’t expect it to stick with you after it’s over. After all, nobody says grand old time anymore

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