Reviewed by Marc Wheeler
The renowned improv and sketch comedy troupe The Groundlings is gifting laughter this joyous holiday season with their simply-titled Groundlings Holiday Show. Directed by Deanna Oliver, this “adults only” program plays like a Christmas morning jackpot. Featuring 13 scripted and three improvised sketches (only a few of which could be considered “socks”), Groundlings Holiday Show is one gut-busting present after another.
The talented cast double as writers, each contributing two to four (mostly collaborated) skits apiece. A sensational three-piece band inserts festive musical interludes throughout the night, providing just enough cushion between audience laugh-fits.
Scripted sketches cover quite the range, yet all are infused with holiday themes. Highlights include “Bobbie & Deanna’s Christmas Spectacular” in which a cruise ship couple show up at their relatives’ home and announce they’re moving in, then proceed to inflict their captives with hours of song-and-dance material that must have sent countless passengers overboard. In “More Woof” a mother finds erotic joy in her gift of subwoofers for her home entertainment center. When the bass gets pumping, so does momma, much to everyone’s horror. And “BnB” scores lots of laughs as two homely maids arrive at a bachelor pad to do some light cleaning, then crank the music for a little extra “entertainment.”
Improvised skits are equally impressive. At the performance reviewed the audience suggestion of “Where Art Though Christmas Tree?” becomes the springboard title for an on-the-spot Shakespearean-style monologue, embellished with nasally naaaaay’s and other flowery language associated with The Bard. Then later the shouted song title “Mistletoe-Dee-Oh” gets an operatic improv complete with ridiculous lyrics and luscious harmonies accompanied by The Groundlings in-house band.
With nary a weak link in the bunch, performances are top-notch across the board. Matt Cook, H Michael Croner, Allison Dunbar, Chris Eckert, Heidi Gardner, Kevin Kirkpatrick, Andrew Leeds and Greg Worswick all merit applause. Each Groundling dons (or in some cases, removes) multiple costumes and wigs as they tackle numerous characters, each sillier and more absurd than the last.
Matt Cook deserves extra props for his performance of “Friendly Frankie”, a creepy, androgynous serial killer, the seeming whoreson of Silence of the Lambs’ Buffalo Bill (”It rubs the lotion on its skin…”) and a sadistic elf. Allison Dunbar transitions hilariously from a sexy driver caught (and catcalled) in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 405 to a frumpy, lovelorn customer at an infamous chain restaurant on Christmas Day. Kevin Kirkpatrick plays this hopeless romantic’s lonely server with rib-tickling, heart-breaking finesse, and is a hoot in a later sketch as a flamboyant, doll-collecting, patriotic boozer who teaches the local rabbi the joys of Christmas.
It’s no wonder The Groundlings launches the careers of some of the best working comedians today. With its outrageous writing, hilarious costuming and riotous performances, Groundlings Holiday Show is sure to leave audiences in howls, tears and cheers, proving it to be the must-see holiday comedy show this season.
Move over Santa, this gang of cut-ups are the real sleighers in town!
Now playing through December 19, 2015
Fridays and Saturdays – 8:00 PM and 10:00 PM
The Groundlings Theatre & School
7307 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Running Time:1 hour 50 mins with intermission
Special Engagement Show. No student cards will be permitted. Absolutely no late seating. No refunds or exchanges. Sixteen and over only. Management reserves the right to refuse admittance to anyone who appears younger than 16 years of age with no ticket refund or exchange. Cast is subject to change.