Feeling the holiday spirit yet?
Jose here. It’s Christmas Eve in the Crawford household, and Joan (Joey Arias), and her children Christina (Chris March of Project Runway) and Christopher (Adam Davidson) are getting ready to receive a very special guest: Miss Hedda Hopper (Sherry Vine) who will broadcast a holiday special live from their home. As the perfectionist actress stresses to her children how important it is that they make a good impression - no wire hangers to be seen anywhere! - it becomes obvious that the holidays here are a truly special occasion, as many famous guests show up throughout the night (most of them mistakenly ringing the Crawford bell on their way to a party at Gary Cooper’s house).
Last seen in New York, twelve years ago, Christmas With the Crawfords is a hilarious parody that will certainly appeal to actressexuals who don’t mind their favorite divas being ridiculed. As with any good parody, the work seen on this show makes it clear that its creators are not in it for the cheap jokes, or the easy targets, but their higher purpose is to highlight what is it that made these people so fantastic, that to exaggerate their unique traits feels like the highest form of tribute.
Among the featured guests and performers are Connie Champagne as Judy Garland (her rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is equally funny and devastatingly sad) and Flotilla Debarge as Hattie McDaniel (don’t ask…), and truly to reveal all the guests that show up would be to rob the show of some of its magic. At its center this is a showcase for the astonishing Arias, who with thighs-to-die-for and shoulder pads for days, epitomizes the harsh/sweet duality that made Joan Crawford so enigmatic.
Arias moves across the stage with grace and poise, and his chemistry with March is unbelievable. One could see these two go at it forever, both being highly talented comedians who know the importance of choosing the right moments to deliver their punchlines. The production design by Andrea Purcigliotti features an anachronistic, but effective reproduction of the “big eyes” portrait Joan received from Walter Keane, and with nods to films Crawford made much later than the 1944-setting of the show, Crawford-ites will be in for a real treat. A Christmas miracle of sorts…
Christmas With the Crawfords plays at the Abrons Arts Center through December 27.