By guest reviewer Rebecca Ralstin
The Living Room Theatre of Kansas City delivers again with its energetic and infectiously funny production of the original musical “Milking Christmas” by Ben Auxier, Brian Huther, Seth Macchi and Ryan McCall.
The audience arrives in the charming and cozy village of Christmastown isolated at the edge of the North Pole. They are greeted by the joyous singing and dancing of Milking Maids, Lords-a-Leaping and Coal Minors who exist on a syrupy sweet sugar high of Christmas cheer and Santa Clause adulation.
Macey Maid-a-Milking, played by the charming Elise Poehling, struggling with questions concerning observations she has taken note of regarding some problematic goings on in their wintery Santa-centered city. She longs to feel the same sense of joy and community her fellow maids and villagers follow so wholeheartedly and without question, but she fears something’s wrong.
In her quest to discover Santa Clause’s true motives, Macey meets a village of interesting folks to help her on journey. Amongst this cast of characters, performances by Mike Ott, Nellie Maple, H.R. Wilhoit and Josh Gleeson stand out.
The rapport between Mike Ott and Nellie Maple is dynamite. These players do an effortless job of switching back and forth from a multitude of characters only heightening the comedy. They create strong and well-defined characters that are recognizable and will have you arguing with yourself over which one is your favorite.
H.R. Wilhoit’s loveable Clyde the Coal Miner will have the audience in stitches with his Scarcrow-esq simple mindedness and excellent timing. Josh Gleeson’s Krampscnickle may cause some to speak differently– in well, some sort of Slavic inspired Christmas dubbed accent that’s ridiculous and yet still somehow makes complete sense.
Kyle Thomas Dyck joins the cast this year and does an excellent job of playing Chris, the bored and profoundly annoyed son and heir to Santa Clause’s dynasty. His tantrums and sulking emotions inspire chuckling and rolling eyes.
Bob Linebarger kills it as Clause, burning up the stage with his voice in styles that echo holiday favorite tunes by Bruce Springsteen and Elvis. Enjoli Gavin’s voice is killer and she cuts it up as Mrs. Clause and has a few surprises of her own.
Poehling’s effortless voice and impressive range, succeeds where most leads typically fail. She does a beautiful job of holding her own against a stage overflowing with strong performances of her co-stars. Playing the straight man to much of their comedic hyperbolic choices, Poehling brings the audience along with her, searching for the truth that has the audience believing in this magical, unrealistic world of Christmastown.
Missy Koonce deserves a round of applause as director of this over the top cast and zany story. She is clearly a director who trusts her actors to go above and beyond giving it their all so she can sweep in a fine tune not just the comedic timing of their choices but also find the truth in the story that they are telling. (Missy Koonce does a brilliant job of conducting the comedic orchestra of this production. She knows when to let her actors loose and when to pull them back just enough to fine tune the timing of a moment.)
The whole production is held together by the amazing musicianship of pianist, Daniel Doss, who has the unsung task of providing all of the music for the production. He does a fantastic job of accompanying each song and making it all look effortless. It is nothing short of impressive.
It’s easy to take for granted how well written the whole production is with the dedicated performances across the board. The characters use a language of commercialized holiday vernacular creating a culture that’s believable and whip smart funny. This could only come from the brilliant minds of Kansas City’s own Ben Auxier, Brian Huther, Seth Macchi and Ryan McCall. It’s only a matter of time before these Midwest lads get the recognition they deserve across the nation.
In a season that usually sticks with the predictable usual suspects for the holidays, “Milking Christmas” is a refreshing and side splitting production of confection that is entertaining for the whole family and reminds the audience what the holidays are all about – spending precious time with friends and family, sharing love and gratitude all year round. The Living Room delivers with this production while staying true to its mission statement of producing original work created and performed by local and expatriate artists. This excellent cast and crew earn high marks. This is one production that cannot be missed!
“Milking Christmas” by Brian Huther, Ben Auxier, Seth Macchi and Ryan McCall runs Nov. 30 thru Dec. 30, at The Living Room Theatre 1818 MeGee St, KCMO
The 2019 production cast and crew includes: Elise Poehlin as Macey Maid-a-Milking; Kyle Thomas Dyck as Chris Clause; R.H. Wilhoit as Clyde, Maid and Lord-a-Leaping; Mike Ott as Ginger, Jingle, General Sparkleshine; Nellie Maple as Citizen Cane, Holly, Lt. Puddings, Maid, Lord-a-Leaping; Josh Gleeson as Krampscnickle, Maid, The Christmas Mole; Bob Linebarger as Santa Clause; Enjoli Gavin as Mrs. Clause, Maid and Partirdge; The Youth Ensemble includes Margaret Veglahn, Carwin Cooper and Kasey Crocket.
The production crew is: Stage Manager: Lacey Pacheco, Asst. Stage Manager: Ivan Dodge, Production Assistant: Elizabeth Schmit, Pianist and Musical Direction: Daniel Doss, Director, Scenic Design and Choreography: Misty Koonce, Scenic Artist: Regina Weller, Sound Designer: David Kiehl, Lighting Designer: Nicole Jaja, Asst. Lighting Designer: Jamie Leonard, Costume Designer: Nancy Robinson, Properties Designer: Shawnna Journagan, Technical Director: Kyle Dyck, House and Box Office Manager: Emma Carter, Poster Design: Ben Auxier .
General admission tickets are $35 and can be purchased at The Living Room box office website.
Tags: “Milking Christmas” review, The Living Room Theatre, Kansas City Theatre, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment, FriendDog Productions