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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘Company Christmas Party’ a campy mix

The show at Reifs Mills includes a mean CEO.

PHOTO: Nick Ruzek, left, is Nick Slick, a company's marketing director, and Bill Mamarow is CEO E.E. Moneywort in The Palace of Reifs Mills Event Dinner Theatre production of "The Company Christmas Party." The Palace of Reifs Mills Event Dinner Theatre photo

REIFS MILLS, Wis., (WFRV) – A new CEO has arrived at The Christmas Company just in time for the company Christmas party. E.E. Moneywort has his eye on downsizing or selling or closing the operation, which deals solely in Christmas stuff. The company is stuck in the past. Memos are still done by dictation, not email. The sales trend is down, down, down. The future is bleak. A lot of the employees are older than dirt. The CEO cares little about the company that was started by his grandmother. The employees want to make merry anyway and celebrate the season no matter what.

That’s the setup for “The Company Christmas Party,” which The Palace of Reifs Mills Event Dinner Theatre is putting on through Dec. 14. Info: www.palaceofrm.com.

The show is part corny and part camp (4 stars out of 5 for the campiness) as it sends zingers at the all-too-familiar corporate climate. By coincidence, a woman at my table was wondering about her job future because the company she works for is considering moving half her department to another state. Her company Christmas party may be a case of déjà vu for her.

The show’s company Christmas party includes:

- Reports to Moneywart (Will Mamerow) by his department heads who include Nick Slick in marketing (Nick Ruzek) and Frank Fossil in sales (Lloyd Gosz).

- Singing featuring Gosz on synthesizer – sometimes in cheesy getups – and other cast members in multiple roles (Mike Brown, BJ Mamerow and Carol Nicks).

- Sing-alongs, sometimes led by the cast, sometimes led by people from the audience.

- Visits from the jolly old elf himself, with an elf, plus Mr. Showmanship, Liberace.

- Christmas trivia galore in which you learn about the traditions of evergreens, lights, bells and more. You come out of the show a bit smarter.

- A “hypnotist.”

-Party punch spiked three times.

- Company awards.

- A plugged drain in the ladies restroom so the “plumber boy” can be called and two heart-fluttering ladies can sing “The Little Drummer Boy” with pun-filled lyrics laced with laughs.

“The Company Christmas Party” is similar to “A Christmas Carol” in that Moneywart is as cold and calculating as Ebenezer Scrooge, and their downer lives hurt the people around them until there is redemption. You definitely don’t like Moneywart when he says, “I don’t care for Christmas, I don’t like Yule.” He then breaks into song, singing “I don’t like Yule” to the tune of Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” with new, cold-hearted lyrics.

But tide among the employees at the Christmas party is against Moneywart as the place fills with songs, lights, games, Christmas colors and ornaments, color, jokes and touching moments.

There is a pause to reflect on why to be thankful – including living in a free country.

The employees sing “Christmas Auld Lang Syne,” and everybody sings “Silent Night.”

Along the way, the show becomes an experience.

VENUE: The 125-seat Palace of Reifs Mills Event Dinner Theatre is a “palace” because owners Bill and Barbara Mamerow say they aim to treat customers royally. The Mamerows have owned the historical place since 2001. Seating is at long tables, and action takes place on a raised stage at the south end of the hall. The building dates to around 1892. It contains a 2,500-square-foot hall, 600-square-foot bar area and spotless restrooms. The main entrance is designed to look like a tower. The interior wood floors and wainscoting are original to the building.

THE PEOPLE: The Reifs brothers owned and operated grist and sawmills, a coffin factory and a broom handle manufacturing place nearby. John Reif manufactured broom handles. The grist and sawmills were operated by Anton and Louis Reif. Anton Reif made coffins and, later, butter churns. Peter Reif made sun clocks. All this took place through the last quarter of the 19th century.

AHEAD: “Ireland Forever,” March 14-16; “Grand ol’ Branch River Opry,” April 25-27; “Those Golden Gals,” June 27-29; “Reifs Mills Late Night #1 Cable Show,” Aug. 15-17; “Palace Polka Show,” Oct. 17-19; “WNPO-North Pole Radio,” Dec. 6-13.

You may email me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air features on WFRV at 6:45 p.m. Thursdays and every other Sunday between 6 and 8 a.m. (usually around 7:45 a.m.)

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