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MAC’s Holiday Variety Show Spans Cynical to Joyful Cheer

by Jennifer Johnson
Reviewer

Magnolia Arts Center ‘s Christmas variety show, Santaland Diaries and Holiday Follies, is cynical yet charming. SL

Musical acts, comedic monologues and amusing skits punctuate Raleigh humorist David Sedaris’ SantaLand Diaries in which a man in desperate need of a job accepts the demeaning position of a department store elf during the holidays, complete with humiliating red and green uniform. Crumpet the Elf invites us behind the revolving door of multicultural eccentric SantaLand Santas, recounting the drudgery of working with unruly children and their impatient materialistic parents.

Alan Gill portrays Crumpet expressively, using impressions of the various people the jaded elf meets throughout his workday to tell his tale of Christmas dysfunction, engaging the audience in laughter and empathy.

Musical numbers range from hilarious and satirical to serious and emotional. Several of the songs put a clever twist on well-known holiday favorites to reveal the darker side of the season of joy. Over-commercialization, the struggles small companies face and the perception of corporate greed show up in unexpected places.

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Clearly a crowd favorite, Deana Rodman‘s boisterous rendition of the traditional carol, “Christmas is Coming,” elicits uproarious laughter. Dayla Brown  and Leslie Harker captivate with the mischievous charm of their silly skits and songs.

Collice Moore‘s performance of Harry Connick, Jr.’s “When My Heart Finds Christmas,” and Suze Q. Shelton‘s rendition of Bette Midler’s “From a Distance,” are both beautiful and richly moving, bringing tears to many eyes.

This show helps us to sit down and laugh at the high expectations and the hurry that cause so much stress during the holidays and holiday traditions through quirky, sometimes adult-themed humor. SantaLand Diaries gives the gift of laughter and a reminder that human kindness embodies the true Christmas spirit.

Show times are December 5, 6, 7, 12 & 13 at 8 p.m., and December 14 at 2 p.m., and they’re selling out. Get yours here.

Jennifer Johnson lives in Greenville and feasts on the fruits of human creativity.  

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