David Cerda's holiday extravaganza parody "Rudolph, The Red-Hosed Reindeer" has enjoyed many favorite memories and moments over the years.
In 2010, he even added a funny nod to a reference that anyone who grew up in Chicagoland in the 1950s and 1960s remembers watching via WGN-Channel 9 on cold, snowy December mornings while hoping for a school closing announcement.
During the holidays, WGN annually aired black and white stop-animation puppet "cartoon shorts" based upon popular holiday classic songs from the 1950s such as "Frosty the Snowman," Santa's elves "Hardrock, Coco and Joe" and "Suzy Snowflake," each created back in 1951 by Wah Ming Chang Centaur and UPA production studios.
Before Cerda's lampoon addition to his stage tradition in 2010, it had been years since I thought about "Suzy Snowflake," based on the popular song of the same name written by Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett and made famous by Rosemary Clooney in 1951.
It's that time again, to welcome back Chicago's favorite cross-dressing reindeer who is still prancing along on the Windy City stage, eying silk scarves and dangling earrings, much to the dismay of Santa Claus and his reindeer parents.
The show is produced by Cerda's Hell in a Handbag Productions, the fun and over-the-top Chicago theater company that loves to spoof favorite pop culture memories. Every year, Cerda likes to change this show and add some surprises, such as his 2010 inclusion of a very salty "Suzy Snowflake" as his gift to Chicago baby boomers.
In recent years, Hammond-born-and-raised playwright Cerda even decided to fold-in a "Dancing with the North Pole Stars" satire sandwiched in for the production, which has found a comfy home with performances in the cozy stage space at Mary's Attic, 5400 N. Clark St., in Chicago.
But this season's run is extra special, since it marks the 15th Anniversary of the show.
It opens tonight and runs until Dec. 29th.
Santa's boozy wife Ruth Claus, (known to take a nip or two of the cooking sherry), is once again played as funny as ever (I'm sure) by towering Ed Jones.
As for the silly story, audiences are once again invited to pull up "a block of ice" with Sam the Snowman, played warmly and wittily by Christopher Carpenter. The adventure unfolds with Rudolph, played again this year by funny and rubbery Alex Grelle, and his equally misfit friends, including Herbie the Elf, played by Chad, (he goes by just one name, apparently, just like Cher, Madonna and Ann-Margret) who wants to be a dentist, and Yukon Cornelia (played by actress Lori Lee, returning for her funniest seventh year!) as the prospector with a deep, dark secret. The group searches for happiness and attempts to outrun the horrifyingly tacky Abominable Drag-Beast played with dual-duties this year by Jones.
Filling out the cast are guest actors Barbara Figgins, sporting a booming voice as gruff Elfino, Katherine Glavin as delicate rebel reindeer Clarice, Michael S. Miller as Coach Comet and John Gardone as Spike the Elf.
Ensemble member AJ Wright is directing "Rudolph, The Red-Hosed Reindeer." And I'd be remiss if didn't mention Terry McCarthy as gossipy neighbor Connie Vixen in one scene and a "trailer trash Barbie doll" in the next.
Tickets for "Rudolph, the Red-Hosed Reindeer" are $22 (VIP options range $35 to $100) and available by calling (800) 838-3006 or visit brownpapertickets.com/event/131657.
As a bonus, on Sunday (Dec. 2), it's the annual "Rudolph, The Red-Hosed Reindeer Benefit Performance and Party" also at Mary's Attic, starting at 5 p.m., with guests having the chance to meet legendary director John Waters, along with raffles, prizes and surprises. I'll be there, so I hope you will too! Visit handbagproductions.org for details.