In “Miracle on 42nd Street: There’s Snow Business Like Show Business,” the Desert Star Playhouse’s current melodrama/parody, the philosophy of comedy is: If a joke is funny one time — or even if it isn’t — why not repeat it endlessly?
For example, anytime someone says, “May I have a word?” whoever he’s speaking to MUST respond with, “Sure. Which word would you like?” You can see how funny this is once; you can imagine how great it is when it is repeated no fewer than three more times over the course of the show.
But lame jokes aside, it’s hard not to like a show that has a human-size dancing Christmas tree stumbling around the stage aimlessly because there are no eye-holes in the costume. While some of the jokes (OK, most of the jokes) make you roll your eyes, there are enough moments of genuinely warm, gentle, exuberant humor to make you laugh in spite of yourself.
In this variation on the classic yuletide film, Broadway producer C.B. d’Mille (Glen A. Carpenter) and director Bill Gailey (Scott Holman) are putting on a Christmas musical. They managed to snag big-time actress Elizabeth Taylor (Danielle Omer), as well as an actor whose real name is Wilhelm von Sinta Clausa (Russell D. Durrant) — which means they can advertise that their show stars “the real Santa Claus.”
All Desert Star shows have villains, and while they had to stretch to come up with one for this simple story, they did come up with something: gangster-type Hardy Steele (Norman E. Plate) and his stupid girlfriend Laurel Lye (Gaynl McAllister). (Later, when a judge says, “Order in the court,” it is Laurel who has to make the obligatory “I’ll have a ham and swiss on rye” joke.) Hardy owns the theater across the street, and he wants this Christmas show to fail so that he can get all the business for himself. To that end, he sabotages the show’s special effect — a flying Santa’s sleigh — and sends it crashing down during the dress rehearsal. Wilhelm von Sinta Clausa is injured, and it looks like the show won’t go on.
Fortunately, they are able to persuade the show’s writer, Kris Kringle (J.R. Moore) to star in it instead. He seems to know so much about the role of Santa Claus! they reason. He even looks like him! He even has his own Santa costume! Guess what. He IS Santa. But Natalie Walker (Caitlin Henriksen; double-cast with Brooke Robison), the young daughter of the director’s assistant (Alison Henriksen) doesn’t believe in Santa (you can blame her mom for that), much less that THIS guy is Santa, and just like the movie, the whole thing goes to court and everybody winds up happy — including the bad guys, which indicates just how jolly the holiday season is at the Desert Star Playhouse.
There are some pretty amusing moments in this show. I mentioned the dancing Christmas tree already; there’s also a bit when the judge calls for a “recess” during the trial, and everyone gets up and frolics around like they’re in elementary school. It’s that kind of energetic goofiness that will make you smile — and NOT the fact that Wilhelm, inexplicably, sounds like Forrest Gump and keeps making references to shrimp and boxes of chocolates. That kind of thing is contrived; a sleigh flying across the stage and crashing in the wings shows ingenuity and a good sense of mayhem. It’s a fun show with some nice holiday warmth to it.
My 10th show at the Desert Star Playhouse: What a milestone! Fully one-seventh of my reviews to this point were of of DSP shows, and I had consumed approximately 12 metric tons of free pizza and ice cream there. Viva Desert Star!