Despite its mildly filthy title, the Desert Star’s “Kissed by an Angel: ‘Tis the Season to Get Your Jollies” is as family-friendly as all of that theater’s shows. Unfortunately, where it differs is that while most DSP shows are funny farces, this one tries to be serious, too — and winds up being neither very funny nor very touching.
I’ve seen the last 23 shows at the Desert Star, and this is the first one I can think of in which a character has died. Even their “Hamlet” parody kept everyone alive, for crying out loud! And a death would have been fine here, or in any show, if it had been played for laughs, and I’m certainly not opposed to the theater trying something a little different from its usual routine. But it’s too hard to go from having the audience literally boo the cheesy villain in one scene to wanting them to cry at a character’s death in the next one. The context is all wrong. All the comedy is broad and superficial; how can they expect the drama to be any different?
The show is a parody of “Touched by an Angel,” with heavenly assistants Roma (Mary Parker Williams) and Tess (Scott Holman, also writer and director) trying to help old Grandpa George (Jack Drayton) keep his toy store from being bought by the evil Peter D’Jerc (Steven Fehr) and his dumb-blonde girlfriend Mary (Arika Schockmel).
Grandpa’s granddaughter, Sarah (Diana Dayley; double-cast with JulieAnn Christensen), meanwhile, is falling for the third angel — the Angel of Death, Joe Black (Paul Thomas Murphy).
Most of the laughs come from Scott Holman wearing a dress and playing the Della Reese character. (His parody of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” called “Repent,” is hysterical.) Paul Thomas Murphy, normally a great help in these shows, is stuck making a lot of strained jokes about being Mr. Death.
The rest of the cast does its best with the material (newcomer Arika Schockmel is particularly good as the dim-witted girlfriend), but alas, the script is merely average to begin with.
Come on, Desert Star: If we wanted schmaltz, we’d go watch “A Christmas Carol.” In fact, we ARE watching “A Christmas Carol,” at least twice this year. That’s why we counted on Desert Star to give us something a little lighter.
It is rare for Desert Star to double-cast its roles; in fact, in 23 shows, I believe this is the first time it had happened. It had to do with scheduling conflicts that prevented JulieAnn Christensen from doing every performance, so she and Diana Dayley wound up trading off. Fortunately, Diana looks almost exactly like JulieAnn, so you might not even notice a difference.