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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘Naughty and Nice: A Holiday Cabaret’ snappy in Sheboygan

Critic At Large

Sheboygan Theatre Company's Studio Players

A Shakespearean Santa (Stephen Myers) and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (David Quinn) take the stage for the Studio Players’ “Naughty and Nice: A Holiday Cabaret” in Sheboygan. (Sheboygan Theatre Company)

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (WFRV) – Without the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, there wouldn’t be “Naughty and Nice: A Holiday Cabaret,” which essentially is a community talent show built around a concept.

New is a device seen for the first time (by me) among performances in Northeastern Wisconsin. It’s a mask made of clear plastic that is convex around the nose and mouth. The space allows room for the business part of a wireless headset. Singers can sing, and their expressions can be seen. The old saying goes: Desperation is the mother of invention.

The show got a standing ovation when first performed live with an in-person audience Friday, Dec. 11, in the Weill Center for the Performing Arts. The performance was livestreamed that night and now is available online to Dec. 18 via stcshows.org.

Some virtual productions are done without an in-person audience. Having a recording with such an audience adds atmosphere, and that is the case here.

A project of Sheboygan Theatre Company’s experimental Studio Players, the 24-act show ranges from the sweet (sounds and sentiments) to the caustic (not everybody’s happy with or during Christmas).

Duncan Doherty as the Grinch. (Sheboygan Theatre Company)

Emcee is Sheboygan Theatre Company’s executive director Genesee Spridco, a sparkplug performer. She is perky, articulate and well-researched as, between songs, she tells about funky holiday traditions around the world.

Director/music director Paul Sucherman, leads the versatile band in playing backup all the way through. The musicians: Paul Sucherman (piano), Greta Thoresen (trumpet, French horn), Rich Tengowski (piccolo, flute, clarinet), Jeff Schiebe (trumpet), Will DeBlaey (electric bass), Paula Harder (clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor sax) and Austin Gafner (drums sleighbells, duck call).

Featured are these performers: Michelle Bestul, Rachel Brooks, Ava Childs, Raven Dockery, Duncan Doherty, Isaiah Garcia, Grace Heine, Shawn Holmes, Vicki Losson, Abigail Marcus, Becky Sue Marcus, Stephen Myers, David Quinn, Lindsay Rick, Bee Rudell, Auti Schultz and Kevin James Sievert.  

The stage is dressed with Christmasy, atmospheric and cute projections on a screen, plus a Christmas tree on one wing and a large nutcracker at the left, plus some costuming among the performers.

Multi-camera work and lighting displays add to the hallowed effect and aura for Rachel Brooks in “O Holy Night.”

Performance zest and experience filled the stage, with Duncan Doherty especially effective in his enacted song and dance in “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”

Bee Rudell, along with a ukulele, delivered the trifecta of simple, sweet and effective in “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

Bee Rudell. (Sheboygan Theatre Company)

The one hour, 45ish-minute show (with an intermission) opened with some serious harmonies by Raven Dockery, Shawn Holmes and Kevin James Sievert singing as a trio. Each also soloed along the way, and the production ended with Kevin James Sievert leading off with “Celebrate Me Home” with the cast joining in on its invigorating momentum.

Sheboygan Theatre Company has quite a history of keepin’ on keepin’ on. The COVID pandemic didn’t entirely stifle it, either.

***

Program

Act I

+ “Let It Snow”/“Winter Wonderland” – band

+ “Christmas Trio”: “Silver Bells”/“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”/“O Come All Ye Faithful” – Kevin James Sievert, Raven Dockery, Shawn Holmes

+ “Brumbly the “Elf” – Isaiah Garcia, Ava Childs, Autumn Schultz, Grace Heine

+ “My Favorite Things”- Ava Childs

+ Reading” “Mark Twain’s Letter from Santa” – Duncan Doherty

+ “Santa Baby” – Lindsay Rick

+ “This Christmas” – Kevin James Sievert

+ “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – Bee Rudell

+ “My Favorite Things” with a twist – Vicki Losson

+ “Santa Claus Got Stuck in My Chimney” – Becky Sue Marcus

+ Stand-up routine: “I’m Hanukkah, so Deal with it.” – Michelle Bestul

+ “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” – Autumn Schultz

+ “Please Come Home This Christmas” – Raven Dockery

Act II

+ Reading: “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” – Stephen Myers

+ “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” – Duncan Doherty

+ “Stuck at Home for Christmas” to the tune of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” – Vicki Losson

+ “A Midwinter Fantasy,” original piano number (aura of a music box) – Grace Heine

+ “The Christmas Song” – Shawn Holmes

+ “(I Want a ) Hippopotamus for Christmas”

+ “O Holy Night” – Rachel Brooks

+ “Baby It’s Cold Outside” – Raven Dockery and Shawn Holmes

+ “Shakespearean Santa,” Santa Claus and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer as Shakespeare-quoting characters – David Quinn and Stephen Myers

+ “Holiday Lament – The Fruitcake Song” – Becky Sue Marcus, Abby Marcus, Lindsay Rick

+ “Celebrate Me Home” – Kevin James Sievert and full cast

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