If any night this week you should find yourself sitting at home re-watching Elf for the hundredth time or, even worse, one of those ABCFamily Original holiday movies inevitably starring some washed-up 90s B-Lister, here’s what you should do:
Put down the remote immediately, get dressed, head to The Adrienne Theater and purchase tickets for BCKSEET Productions‘ new holiday musical EL Fuego as well as the Philly Improv Theater’s new mouthful of a show: 100% Improvised Baby Jesus’ Menorah Kwanztravaganza & Comedy Spectacular (On Ice).*
Not only will you save yourself some cash by buying a combo-ticket, but you’ll be ensuring you get a well-rounded night of season-appropriate entertainment.
Starting with EL Fuego, the show opens in the North Pole after a devastating fire has killed countless of innocent elves. Those who didn’t loose their lives in the blaze are now on strike, refusing to carry out Santa’s dirty work another day under such demanding and unsafe conditions. It’s all up to one brave little soul, Scab The Elf (Sarah Doherty) to save Christmas, a task that entails trekking to North America and kidnapping four unemployed humans then holding them hostage and forcing them to speak in rhyme.
The production reminded me of Glee in the way that it’s very openly and unapologetically cheesy, but still super sharp at the same time. Now obviously, if you’re not a fan of musicals, this show is going to feel like probably going to be torturous for you.
Those who do enjoy the occasional song and dance on the other hand, are going to be absolutely delighted. Not only is playwright/musical director and BCKSEET artistic director, Kate Brennan quite the lyrical genius, but the talented cast proved far more enjoyable than I could have initially imagined. Both Maria Konstantindis (Euki) and Cindy Spitko (Hope) gave me chills every time they opened their mouths.
Simply put, if you don’t leave EL Fuego feeling unusually giddy, take it as a sign that you’re completely dead inside.
Regardless, you’re going to want to stick around till 9 p.m. to see what sort of spontaneous holiday magic the members of PHIT’s stellar house teams are able to create with the help of a lucky audience member.
This person will be asked to reveal one of their best/worst Christmas memories (a guaranteed source of some pretty great comedic material) and the troupe will then use their skills and wits to recreate said family gathering—a greatly exaggerated version, of course. The fact that they’ll be doing it all within the El Fuego set (the scorched interior of Santa’s workshop) only adds to the overall experience.
*Oh, and they’re not actually performing on ice, just in case you wondering.
But how awesome would it be if next year, the Philly Improv Theater and BCKSEET Productions join forces and created the first ever 100 Percent Improvised Holiday Musical On Ice?
7pm/9pm. Through Dec. 31. $12-$35. Skybox @ The Adrienne Theatre, 2030 Sansom St. 267.233.1556.
Tonight, the Philadelphia Improv Festival kicks off its eighth year, with more than 40 different acts performing over the next five days.
This includes a mix of the finest improvisational talents in town in addition to several noteworthy troupes from some of the nation’s top comedy meccas such as the Upright Citizens Brigade and New York’s Magnet Theater. (Note: the same goes for many of our local improvisers.)
Unable to cherry pick my own personal faves from the line-up (really, there’s too many to count), I decided to poll some local comics to find out which shows/troupes they’re most excited to see.
Greg Maughan (Philly Improv Theater Founder and Executive Director): “On Friday, Mayor Karen and The Imposters and on Saturday, Hey Rube and Junior Varsity are must sees.”
Jason Grimley (member of improv duo Grimacchio and PHIT house team King Friday): “I am very excited to see BILLY HAWK from Los Angeles. I know those guys from IO West and they never disappoint.”
Chip Chantry (stand-up comedian): “I’m looking forward to RARE BIRD SHOW. The three of them are masters at what they do, and I’m so glad they’re getting the band back together.”
Paul Triggiani (member Secret Pants; host of PHIT’s TV Party): “Thursday’s show represents three cities, both non-native acts sound novel and intriguing, and King Friday and Iron Lung are great local groups. Iron Lung is also collectively very attractive. So I’d recommend this block.”
Brendan Kennedy (stand-up comedian; member of Camp Woods): ”Hot Dish at 7:30pm Wednesday night. I saw every night of their Fringe show “BackStory” and they were brilliant!”
Corin Wells (member of PHIT house team Hot Dish): “Amie and Kristen/Kristen and Amie Show because every time they get on stage together, not only do they perform amazing improv but they have so much fun together. The audience feels like they’re are having fun right along with them.”
Alison Zeidman (Editor in Chief at Witout.net): “ZaoGao. They perform the best organic improv in the city.”
Aaron Hertzog (stand-up comedian; member of Hey Rube and Hate Speech Committee; host of PHIT’s Hey Everybody!): “Davenger. Because they are dope.”
Kristen Schier (PHIT instructor; member of Amie and Kristen/Kristen and Amie Show): “I am totally biased but I want everyone to check out ZaoGao. I love me some BILLYHAWK boys too! This year’s fest will be a blast.”
FESTIVAL INFO: Each of the nightly performances (which are are split into either two or three hour-long blocks) will be held in the Prince Music Theater’s Independence Foundation Blackbox (1412 Chestnut St.). Tickets for an individual show block are $10 while a nightly pass costs $15-$20. As an additional bonus, a portion of tickets sales from this year’s festival as well as all proceeds from the annual Comedy Month raffle will benefit Career Wardrobe.
**PHOTOS: Tom Lovelund, Musher-Lovelund Photography for Philly Improv Theater