Mistletoe madness

A Cookie Korquie Christmas

Written and directed by Michael Schloegl and Jeffrey Criddle
Vital Theatre Company
432 West 42nd St., 3rd floor (592-4508)
Non-union production (closes Dec. 19)
Review by David Mackler

Good humor, good cheer, and some divine silliness were on display as sisters Cookie and Korquie presented their self-proclaimed "holiday musical extravaganza." In its most splendid moments, it exposed most delightfully the fake sincerity of Christmas TV specials at the same time it provided some honest entertainment.

It's not an easy task, and not all of the material is up to the level of their hysterical version of "The Nutcracker," or the smarminess of Loretta Lynn's lonely holiday in Butcher Holler, with a "surprise" guest appearance. "The Nutcracker" worked so well because it was performed with conviction, and Loretta Lynn because it so closely mirrored the fake sincerity of "down home" Christmas presentations. And both featured to best advantage the terrific performing/acting of writer-director-stars Michael Schloegl (Cookie) and Jeffrey Criddle (Korquie).

Even when they were let down by their material, high spirits carried them through. A faltering "Night Before Christmas" takeoff was enlivened mostly by Criddle's delivery; and while the well-worn tale of Christmas with Joan and Cristina Crawford provided no fresh approach, Criddle again came to the rescue with some outstanding comic acting. Schloegl was a terrific performer, with a wonderful glare and great physical deftness (his Nutcracker dancing will be long remembered) and Criddle, with an expressive mouth as wide as Joe E. Brown's, is a great comic actor.

The show also featured Carey Cromelin, Aram Jibilian, James Montalvo, Cara Pontillo, Christopher Wagley, and Darin Wixon as the Cookie Korquie Carolers and Dancers. They filled the stars' costume-changing pauses (better musically than comically), and added merriment to the musical numbers (particularly the Christmas-across-the-world sequence). Wagley and Pontillo were in especially good voice, as was Cromelin, who had a comic look that seemed to say, "What-am-I-doing-here-isn't-this-fun?" Her appearances were a treat.

Costumes (production design by Schloegl) were very effective, mixing the necessary elements of glamor and ridiculousness, and wondrous things were done with non-hair material for wigs. The set was minimal, no doubt so it wouldn't compete with the stars. Taped music worked well, making their "Nutcracker" the other one in town dancing to pre-performed Tchaikovsky.

Holiday cheer this infectious is always welcome. Cookie and Korquie also do karaoke at a Lower East Side club on Wednesday nights. It must be a hoot.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Performing : 2
Set: 1
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 1999 David Mackler