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In Tandem Brings Back ‘Holiday Hell’

A fun holiday show that’s more naughty than nice

Dec. 6, 2016
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There are plenty of holiday shows in Milwaukee that cater to families with young children. In Tandem’s Holiday Hell: The Curse of Perry Williams isn’t one of them.

Instead, the audience is greeted by the smarmy “Mad Men”-type character of Perry Williams. His name, no doubt, is a combination of Perry Como and Andy Williams (both singers with their own TV holiday specials many years ago). Unlike his namesakes, however, Perry (played with impeccable finesse by Adam Estes) is only cheerful and debonair while onstage. Offstage, he’s a diva—and worse. 

The show is set in 1957, when live TV ruled the airwaves. Nothing is sacred in the hilarious Holiday Hell. Not abusive relationships, cruel jokes about subordinates or even a grandmother’s libido. In the role of Granny (a Minnie Pearl lookalike complete with price tag dangling from her hideous-looking hat), Samantha Sostarich nearly steals the show. Her bawdy jokes get even bolder as the evening continues. For instance, she sings her own lyrics, “Granny’s Pants Are A-Comin’ on Down,” to the tune of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

However, everyone in this five-person cast gets a workout. Most of the actors have to assume multiple characters in this two-hour show. Zach Woods is eagerly welcomed back to In Tandem as Benny. (He recently starred as Jack in In Tandem’s Ernest in Love). In this role, Woods plays Benny, a hick from Oostburg, Wis. There’s nothing special about him except his wonderful voice. He also has a passion for returning Christmas to its Christian roots. But when he tries to implement this plan, the results are more wacky than spiritual. When Benny is given his own TV special, one of his most memorable tunes puts pro-Christian lyrics to the well-known song, “Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda.”

Meanwhile, one of the worst-kept secrets in showbiz involves Perry’s holiday specials. Benny is actually singing in a sound booth offstage while a tone-deaf Perry lip syncs on-air. When Perry stupidly fires Benny, he’s at a loss for a replacement until Satan (an evil and sexy Marques Causey) shows up and makes him a Faustian deal. Perry, who otherwise sees an abrupt end to his lucrative career, agrees to Satan’s terms. 

The show’s other female cast member, Kathryn Hausman, is rather one-note as Darla, Perry’s assistant. She falls in love with the good-hearted Benny and tries to stick up for him. However, their relationship is stopped cold when Satan impersonates a femme fatale (played by Sostarich) and gets Benny to fall for “her.”

This crazy comedy is by Anthony Wood and Mondy Carter. Chris Flieller directs the production with music direction by David Bonofiglio. The last time In Tandem produced Holiday Hell was more than a dozen years ago. Still, according to In Tandem co-founder and stage manager Jane Flieller, quite a few ticket buyers have noted that they’ve been waiting for its return. If that’s the case, they had better snap up tickets soon. Holiday Hell guarantees outrageous fun and a slightly naughty look at the holiday season. 

Through Jan. 8, 2017 at the Tenth Street Theatre, 628 N. 10th St. For tickets, call 414-271-1371 or visit intandemtheatre.org.

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