Presenting its 7th annual performance at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles, The Janky Christmas Show is a wonderfully entertaining and high-spirited Christmas show written by Kristin Campbell-Taylor and Michael Dunn. Designed specifically for adults, the shows director, Campbell-Taylor, came up with the idea several years ago while driving back to Los Angeles following the holidays. She did not know of any Christmas shows for adults and decided to do something about it. The original title decided upon by the creative group of her friends and colleagues was A Very Janky Christmas Spectacular. Sensing that the title was too long, it was eventually modified to The Janky Christmas Show. I was told that the cast refers to the show simply as The Janky.
For those, like me, who might not know what the word ‘janky’ means, according to sources like the Urban Dictionary, it is used to “describe a person, place or thing which is questionable, strange, of extremely poor quality, or something you simply can not think of another word for”. The Janky Christmas Show is different, bawdy, witty, and sometimes corny, but there is nothing of poor quality about it. The skits are well written, the music, vocals, choreography (Melissa Schade, Kathryn Burns, and Kristin Campbell-Taylor) and lighting (Brandon Baruch) are of high quality and the sometimes funky costumes (Sulai Lopez) are humorously original. Like Saturday Night Live and San Francisco’s Beach Blanket Babylon, The Janky is a series of short comedy skits laced with political satire. This year’s story is a retelling of the Charles Dickens holiday classic A Christmas Carol. Pink Santa is depressed due his overwhelming sadness caused by the year’s “raging wildfires, decrepit state of our political leadership, sexual harassment allegations, and general debauchery.” The story revolves around trying to cheer Pink Santa up so that he will join in everyone’s holiday celebrations.
Live music is always a plus and The Janky provides that treat with the extraordinary talents of a ten-piece ensemble called Kristmas Toedtman & The Mistletones House Band. The show includes The Janky Players and stars Michael Dunn as Pink Santa, Campbell-Taylor as Ms. KCT and features American actor, comedian, singer, screenwriter, and producer John C. Reilly as Jankup Marley.
Built in three acts, The Janky set includes a living room with fireplace and the exterior of a house, including its roof and windows. I kept expecting to hear Goldie Hawn’s famous laugh when the windows were used for Q&A jokes like those in the 1960s Rowan & Martin television show Laugh-In. There are cheerleaders who make social commentaries, reciting during one skit, “Before you send that e-mail, process your feelings”. They return later in Act II dressed in S&M outfits, carrying whips instead of pom-poms. There’s a man in drag, dancers, a Tombstone Pizza and much, much more.
John C. Reilly appears as the ghost of one of Pink Santa’s friends to warn him of the appearance of the ghosts of Janky past, present and future. The ghost of Janky Past comes through his TV set wearing a white dress and long brown dreg-locks. Janky Present is dressed in green, brags about his nice gams and offers Pink Santa several cans of beer. Janky future is dressed in all black and wearing a veil.
Songs include Don’t, performed by John C. Reilly; Why Can’t I Be Blue, performed with great humor by Dunn; Monologue Man, performed beautifully by Brian Allman; and a show stopper performance of Who’s Sorry Now by John C. Reilly. There are the traditional Christmas songs Silver Bells, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, White Christmas and an inventive version of the full 12 Days of Christmas, all performed by the band and The Janky Players. There is even the song Tradition from Fiddler On the Roof for those celebrating Chanukah, and Dear Friend, an original song written and performed by Kristmas Toedtman & the Mistletones, that has the audience singing along.
The Janky is great fun, filled with a cast of very talented actors, singers and musicians. I highly recommend that you go see it. The Janky Players include Brian Allman, Lou Becker, Jessica Emmanuel, Adam Hunter, Ed Kiniry-Ostro, Max Levin, Katrina Lofgren, Sulai Lopez, Kim Manning, Lisa Nupoff, Tiffany Sweat, Ryan Templeton, Kilah Willingham, and Jabez Zuniga. The members of the band are Kristen Toedtman (Keyboard/Vocals), Sylvain Carton (Clarinet/Tenor Sax), Ben Childs (Baritone Sax), Brittany Fyvolent (Vocals), Craig McEldowney (Bass/Vocals), Kevin McMullan (Drums), Al Sgro (Guitar), Eric Thorne (Guitar/Ukulele), Mouzhan Yousefi (Vocals), and Adam Zimmon (Guitar). Production Designer is Eric Thorne.
The Janky Christmas Show runs through Saturday at the Bootleg Theatre. For more information and tickets, click here.
Feature Photo: Emily Isacson
To view the LA Dance Chronicle Performance Calendar, click here.