Show skewers season, year, but with heart
BY MISHA DAVENPORT December 12, 2012 6:08PM
“Christmas in Chicago” stars A.J. Miller (from left), Heather Bodie, Tommy Beardmore and Taryn Wood.
‘Christmas in Chicago’
♦ Through Dec. 23
♦ Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago
♦ Tickets, $25
♦ Visit thefineprint
Updated: December 13, 2012 5:48PM
They’ve returned — to put the “fun” in holiday dysfunction.
Fine Print Theatre’s “Christmas in Chicago,” a 75-minute, musical sketch comedy revue, returns for a second year.
Equal parts “Noises Off” and “30 Rock” (for its backstage antics) and “Forbidden Broadway” (only this time it’s satirical spoofs of Christmas carols), the premise remains the same: four actors are muddling through a year-in-revue sketch comedy show while sabotaging each other and trying to steal the spotlight. Cast member Heather Bodie, who plays acting diva Heidi Broden in the show, says it’s a new year, so there’s new material.
“Fortunately, the great thing about being a year-in-review type show is that even when you do it again it’s not the same show,” Bodie says.
Tommy Beardmore, who plays veteran performer Ted Bruxton in the show, says this year offered much on which to comment.
“Lance Armstrong, celebrity deaths, Hurricane Sandy, they’re all in the show,” he says. “The show takes all of the events of 2012 and wraps them up with a big bow.”
“It’s an enjoyable holiday show,” says Aaron Graham, on his decision to return for a second year to direct the show. “It’s homage to all things Christmas and all things Chicago with a great mix of tone and satire.”
Bodie says local actors needn’t fear the show.
“None of the characters in the show are based on real people,” she says. “They are all exaggerations of ourselves.”
“Ted isn’t too far removed from Tommy,” Beardmore says. “While he may struggle with notoriety and the scotch bottle and I don’t, at his core he cares about his family and his ensemble. Of course, that doesn’t mean he isn’t always doing something that creates chaos,” he adds.
As for the grandstanding and upstaging, Beardmore says that’s all based on the competitive improvisational and sketch comedy scene in Chicago.
“There are 3,000 people in the city all trying to do it; of course it is competitive,” says Beardmore. “Our show tries to capture some of that.”
“It’s like herding cats — talented cats,” Graham says of directing the show. “I’ve worked at the training center at Second City, so I’m sort of familiar with what my function as director is. I keep my eye on the big picture, make sure the tone remains constant, the evening has an arc and all of the actors are featured well.”
Despite some of the underhanded antics in the script, Beardmore says the end result is still heart-warming holiday fare.
“There are these moments in the show where you see the triumph of the human spirit, not unlike Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol,’ ” he says.
As for their own favorite holiday memories, Graham says,“I’ve always been partial to Thanksgiving. Mom cooks a huge meal and the entire family comes together — that’s what the holidays are all about.”
“Mine is a little bit more cynical,” Beardmore says. “I was kind of an interesting kid and always wanted to know the truth, so the last year I believed in Santa I came up with an idea to trick him: I made two lists — one I showed to my mom and the other I showed to Santa. Needless to say, all the gifts were from mom’s list.”
“My favorite part of the holidays is ‘game time,’ ” says Bodie. “After dessert, when too much alcohol has been consumed and you try to play games. ‘Taboo’ and ‘Charades’ are completely different when you’re drunk.”
Misha Davenport is a local free-lance writer.