Vote for your favorite Dish of the Week

The 2017 DEEP DISH Reader Survey

Battle of the Movie Stars #113: 1944-51

The Groovy List strips down with Erik Altemus

10 Groovy Things to Do in August
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

You'd better go see Christmas Dearest, dammit (starring Joan Crawford)



David Cerda as Joan Crawford.

I repeat - David Cerda as Joan Crawford.

I think his performance is enough reason to go see Christmas Dearest, the hilarious new holiday musical from Chicago's Hell in a Handbag Productions. Mr. Cerda, who is Handbag's co-founder and Artistic Director, is also the founder of The Joans, a rock band dedicated to giving Miss Crawford a rock and roll voice. So he has been playing the famous actress for many years, and by now his camptabulous impersonation is quite flawless. If you're in a desperate need of a Joan fix - as I'm sure many of my readers are - Cerda is the go-to guy for this gal. And when you combine his amusing Joan with a Mommie Dearest-inspired Christmas Carol, it makes for one deliciously twisted evening of entertainment.

The story of Christmas Dearest, of course, is all about Miss Crawford, who is a bitch on heels to everyone around her while playing the title role in Oh Mary, a new movie musical about The Virgin Mary, Mother of God. But then on Christmas Eve, she is visited by three ghosts - from the past, present and future - who attempt to make her see the error of her Scrooge-like ways. Cerda's clever adaptation of the classic holiday tale is full of Handbag's usual offbeat humor as well as a few catchy songs, including "No More Wire Hangers" (sung by actress Faye Dunaway) and "You'd Better Have a Merry Christmas, Dammit!" However, it takes a village of exceptionally talented actors to bring to life a stage production, and Handbag has one of the best acting ensembles in town. The always delightful Ed Jones is perfectly cast as Joan's lesbian assistant Carol Ann, while Alex Grelle nearly steals the show in his duel roles as Carol Ann's sickly daughter Teeny Teena and the boozy Ghost of Christmas Past, actress Olive LaLake. Caitlin Jackson does a marvelous impression of Bette Davis during her Baby Jane period, and Christopher Lewis is a hoot as Joan's sassy daughter Christina. The rest of the cast - Steve Love, Michael J. Hampton, Michael John Lea, Jeremy Trager, Jamie Smith, Grant Drager, Sydney Genco and Katherine Glavin - also deserve a shout-out for their wonderful performances.

But, again, I must say - David Cerda as Joan Crawford. It's his living embodiment of the actress, as well as his wicked sense of humor as a writer, that makes Christmas Dearest a theatrical gift worth receiving this holiday season.

Christmas Dearest runs through December 29 at Mary's Attic (5400 N. Clark). For tickets, call 800-838-3006 or go to brownpapertickets.com. For further information on Hell in a Handbag Productions - and their upcoming benefit, The Joan Crawford Christmas Extravaganza, on December 8 - visit handbagproductions.org.

Photos by Rick Aguilar.

No comments: