Roasting Chestnuts, A Christmas Spectacle | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Roasting Chestnuts, A Christmas Spectacle 

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Roasting Chestnuts, A Christmas Spectacle, Noble Fool Theater Company, at the Storefront Theater. The holiday staple of a singing star hosting a schmaltzy Christmas TV special is an easy target for parody. In Roasting Chesnuts the star host is Gina Oswald, who welcomes to the show her estranged husband and less successful siblings--all once famous members of the Oswald Quintuplets--in between songs, a skating number, and a visit from a gruff Santa.

This show, directed by Amy Binns-Calvey, gives its send-up of holiday specials some fresh, funny humor. Highlights are the Zeitgeist Family Singers, the show's chorus, speeding through a song to beat the clock; the Oswalds accompanying a traditional bell-ringing number with alarm clocks and bicycle bells; and a trimmed-down It's a Wonderful Life. Still, the show lacks a satirical edge, and the dark side of this family reunion would be a welcome antidote to our season of joyful treacle. There's some bitter sniping among the siblings, but their jealousy and animosity could have been explored further.

The majority of the cast sings well, and the Zeitgeist chorus shows plenty of personality. As Gina, Pat Musker revels in lounge-singer flourishes, and Mickey Houlahan is noteworthy for his uncanny rendition of the Grinch. The Oswalds are smooth and smart improvisers (particularly Lynda Shadrake), but many of the exercises, interspersed throughout the show, are routine and familiar.

--Jenn Goddu

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