Expanded, re-imagined ‘Milking Christmas’ delights

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By Bob Evans

Friend Dog Studios (Ben Auxier, Brian Huther, Seth Macchi), locally known for their off-beat humor in Kansas City (and now producing in Chicago) along with Ryan McCall, their musically blessed collaborator and orchestrator; debuted the new, exciting, fully-expanded Christmas musical, “Milking Christmas” to an enthusiastic, sold-out crowd at The Living Room Theatre, Dec. 8.

In true Friend Dog style, word of mouth preceded their opening, and last night’s opening sell-out displayed local enthusiasm for their zany Christmas musical. “Milking Christmas” originated as a 90-minute musical piece last season and became The Living Room’s highest selling production. Now, revised, re-written, with scenes added to create a full two-act musical, the show serves up merriment, joy, absurdity, evil, and just out-right fun.

“Milking Christmas” zeros in on Christmastown, the village where Santa lives and creates the Christmas magic for each season. Their spirit and happiness create the magic that powers the town. But, this year, something seems to be happening. The lights and energy just don’t seem as bright and consistent, and Santa’s son Chris despises his anointed role as heir-apparent to Santa. His bah-humbug attitude need serious adjustment before he takes over as the main Claus.

“Macey Maid-a-Milking seems to be the only person in all of Christmastown concerned that things aren’t right,” Friend Dog said. “Toys are coming out wrong, soldiers are out in force, and there must be an awful lot of naughty children, because coal production is higher than ever. Driven by a mission to keep the holiday perfect, she soon finds herself in a lot of trouble – with the future of Christmas hanging in the balance.”

Who would ever consider that Santa, the jolliest elf on earth, with all the riches of Christmas, free room and board, free workers, free factory, free spirit, everlasting happiness and more toys that he knows what to do with could possess an evil and greedy streak? Who could believe Mrs. Claus could share in his avaricious tendencies? How could they possibly want more? Who would believe they would steal the spirit and joy from the average townspeople to create more wealth for themselves and others like them? Oh, it’s a tragedy of Scroogian politics, for certain.

The devised plot steals the heart, energy, and radiance from residents, and re-channels it into a power machine to run Christmastown, making the residents and their jobs meaningless and deflated. Only Macey, Chris, Ginger, and Citizen Cane, Clyde, and Christmas Mole know the plot and must somehow defeat the Clauses and then restore Christmas magic.

“Milking Christmas” blends Friend Dog’s unique humor with great songs with bits and pieces of well-knows Christmas Carols. Listen carefully and find the musical phrases so well known, but with different words. Pay attention to Ryan McCall’s music and the artistic keyboard mastery of Jeremy Watson as he adds his own signature to the music.

The show keeps the audience laughing from beginning to end. The characters are funny–and the actors portraying them add their own stamp to each one. Obviously, the cast works well together and can ad-lib as needed. Their camaraderie just adds energy to an already energized auditorium The actors needed an audience to project their energy; the audience gave back even more energy to the actors. The result: Fabulous performance.

“Milking Christmas” defines fun, family entertainment for all ages. Kids though adults will enjoy the show and the music. Costumes are bright and fun; choreography is sharp; singing is excellent; casting is wonderful; lighting is strong, sound is perfect. There are no weaknesses in the show.

The one weakness might be seating–not enough. Opening weekend is sold out. With that being the case and word of mouth spreading the news, plan ahead for subsequent shows by checking The Living Room Theatre website.

The cast is: Elise Poehling as Macey Maid-a-Milking, Bob Linebarger as Santa Claus, Enjoli Gavin as Mrs. Claus, Pancho Javier as Chris Claus, Ellen Kirk as Krampsnickle/Mole/Ensemble, Mike Ott as Jingle/Ginger/Ensemble, Nellie Maple as Cane/Ensemble, R.H. Wilhoit as Clyde/Ensemble, Margaret Veglahn as Ensemble, Haddy Wilczewski as Ensemble, Eli Black as Ensemble.

The creative/production team is: Directors, Missy Koonce and Rusty Sneary; Musical Director, Ryan McCall; Accompanist, Jeremy Watson; Technical Director – Kyle Dyck, Lacey Pacheco – Stage Manager, Emma Dodge – Assistant Stage Manager, Alisa Lynn – Production Assistant, Nicole Jaja – Lighting Design, David Kiehl – Sound Design, Props designer and Managing Director, Shawnna Journagan, Nancy Robinson – Costume Design, Regina Weller – Scenic Artist.

“Milking Christmas” continues through Jan. 6, 2019 with evening and matinee performances as listed. All seats are general admission, so prime seats go fast and are $35.

Tags: Milking Christmas, The Living Room Theatre, Friend Dog Studios, Kansas City Theatre, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment

Images courtesy of The Living Room Theatre, Brian Paulette/The Living Room Theatre, Bob Evans | KC Applauds and Bob Evans

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