The Difficult Toeing Between Past and Present: “It’s a Horrible Life”

PHOTOS BY MICHAEL VON REDLICH; Featuring Gene Dante, Olive A Nother, Jessica Barstis and Paul Vincent Melendy

PHOTOS BY MICHAEL VON REDLICH; Featuring Gene Dante, Olive A Nother, Jessica Barstis and Paul Vincent Melendy

Presented by Ryan Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans
Directed by James P. Byrnes

December 5th-22nd
Machine:
The Ramrod Center for the Performing Arts
Boston, MA
Gold Dust Orphans on Facebook

Review by Noelani Kamelamela

(Boston) Hot off of Mildred Fierce and dashing towards their spring show Snow White and the Seven Bottoms, Ryan Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans gift Boston with a sweet spectacular at the Ramrod Center for the Performing Arts.When the weather outside is frightful, people should watch something delightful.  As the live Sound of Music TV event last week proved, those good-old classics are not necessarily centered around the holidays.  They don’t have to be all that appropriate (Nazis!).

Accurate history or rigid morals?  Nein.  The light family fare that fills the space between actual events such as the lighting of trees or the singing of songs is the incomprehensible slurry that passes as entertainment for the tiny tots in your life.  Tiny tots should remain at home.

Adults, on the other hand, should watch childhoods roasting on an open fire at It’s a Horrible Life.  Get tickets quickly or get Grinched. If you’re not Grinched, be prepared to squish in, on and around Machine’s dance floor.  The madcap mash-up of good-old classics makes for great and somewhat dizzying comedy.  Have no fear, if a joke jumps off a bridge, wait half a minute.  That joke will probably wander around, see how terrible the audience would have felt without it, and then decide to gratefully get told again in record time.

The runtime is shorter than the Jimmy Stewart vehicle referenced by the title, leaving you plenty of time to get drinks and go clubbing after the show. Most musical numbers here are mostly upbeat, with dancing that boogie woogies all over the stage and though offered in a different spirit, retain the same frenetic energy as the originals. Downtempo numbers may have you dreaming a dream of days gone by.  Pacing is breakneck and chorus members often run double and triple duty.  The sight gags, puppets, sound effects, set, make-up and costumes are worth every ha’penny.  In the case of several of the glittery costume confections and the cutest dog ever, definitely worth every angel-blessed dollar.

If you’ve never seen a wheelchair successfully used onstage, you need to watch this show.   Penny Champayne as Skippy White also gives the best delivery of cockamamie expressions without missing a beat (as far as I could tell). Beautiful surprises continue to emerge throughout, proving that actually, it’s a wonderful show.

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