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Homo for the Holidays

Spotlighters Puts the X in Xmas With the Gay Cabaret of Rudolph The Red-Hosed Reindeer

Thoroughly Hosed: Brian Jacobs hoofs it up as the titular cross-dressing reindeer.

By John Barry | Posted 12/4/2002

Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer

David Cerda

If you find yourself being labeled a deviant, a loner, a drunken floozy, or even a heterosexual, you may want to shell out the 15 bucks for the Spotlighters Theatre's adult musical Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer (loosely based on the venerable kids' holiday TV special of nearly the same name). You'll find out that you're not as perverted or as lonely as you think.

Welcome to a holiday pantheon of dysfunctional dictators and sexual deviants. Potbellied, abusive Santa (Jason Kimmel) reigns over the North Pole and Ruth, his alcoholic, depressed wife (Michelle Pinkham). "If I was married to the Easter Bunny," he complains, "at least I would get laid once in a while." Mr. and Mrs. Donner (Patrick Kilpatrick and Laura Cosner), two reindeer, give birth on a newspaper to Rudolph the transvestite reindeer (Brian Jacobs).

He doesn't have a red nose, but no problem. Before long, he's wearing red pantyhose, stiletto heels, and his mother's earrings. His comrade in arms turns out to be Herbie (Steve Sawicki), a misfit elf who wants to become a dentist. Herbie's pedestrian demeanor infuriates his fellow elves, a quartet of preening, flagrantly gay elves led by the fiery Latino Elfano (Oscar Ceville). Santa's Little Helpers state their case as succinctly as possible: "You gotta be a bitch . . . to fit a certain niche."

In the face of adversity, Herbie and Rudolph resolutely refuse to go with the flow. ("Sometimes I'd swear you were a fr-r-rigging hetero!" Elfano wails petulantly, to no avail.) Rudolph and Herbie are misfits in a land of misfits, wrenches in the Christmas machine. They spend the rest of the play trying to deal with a North Pole populated by drag queens, trailer trash Barbies, elephants on smack, and dozens of other misfit toys and people.

Rudolph is exuberantly, but not outrageously, iconoclastic. Not only does it give Santa, Mrs. Claus, and every reindeer and elf a run for their money, it pokes gentle fun at a range of gay and straight types. The essential point seems to be that even in the world of outsiders intolerance prevails. At its worst, David Cerda's script pounds that message in with the old "believe in yourself" mantra. At its best, Rudolph is a hilarious debunking of the search for sexual identity.

Cheerful chaos is probably an appropriate way of describing Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer. Director Terry Long juggles the rapid-fire scene changes with the same dexterity that he exhibited in Vagabond's Two Weeks With the Queen. With the Spotlighters' tiny theatre in the round and a cast of 18, though, things inevitably get a little messy. This might be the time to mention that the singing doesn't always hit the high notes. But get over it. Given the pasted-together, digressive plot, and the cast chock-full of lowlifes and miscreants, and the city that it's being produced in, it's safe to say this musical was meant to be a little rough around the edges.

In this cast, there are plenty of gems. Sawicki, as the red-cheeked Herbie, adds a delightfully innocent sensibility to a fairly cynical play. Jacobs does what he can as Rudolph, even if the part doesn't have much to offer beyond the red pantyhose. Ceville pulls out all the stops with his portrayal of the bilingual Latino elf. And Mary Ann Walsh as Yukon Cornelia, the 5-by-3-foot, plaid-shirted, pickax-wielding dyke, barnstorms through the second half.

Before heading out to an 11 p.m. performance of an "adult musical," you may have a few questions. Is this pornographic? No--a little outré, but nothing offensive. Are you going to be squirming in your seat if you're heterosexual? No. You may be in the minority, but, as Cerda makes abundantly clear, so is Santa Claus. Is it funny? Most of the time. But be warned. Sometimes they're laughing with you, sometimes they're laughing at you. Finally, does this have anything to do with Christmas? Not much, actually. But then, in case anyone hasn't noticed, neither does Christmas.

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