Jeffrey Solomon's one-man show Santa Claus is Coming Out is a hysterical lampoon of America's fear of the fabulous. In it, a young lad asks Santa for a doll for Christmas, which leads to the revelation that Santa himself is a bit "jollier" than previously thought. America reacts as one might predict, and the whole North Pole is engulfed in a scandal called "Santagate."
Audiences know they’re in for a good time as soon as they enter the theatre and see a warning projected on the upstage wall reading, “This show may not be suitable for young children … or their parents.” The use of a slide projector is continued throughout the show, and there are a lot of recorded voices and sound effects, so Santa… takes on aspects of a multimedia show. There's even a puppet show at one point, too. All of this created a feeling of whimsy that suited the show's Christmas theme (and hints at Solomon's background in children's theatre too).
The show (written by Solomon) is presented in a documentary format, with interviews of prominent figures from "Santagate.” The characters are a pack of brilliantly conceived Christmas folk, including the blue-collar leader of the Elf union, Rudolph the red-nosed Reindeer (who knows what it's like to be ostracized for being different), and Santa's Jewish agent, among many, many others. There’s a tongue-in-cheek attitude that the whole thing is based on a true story, even having a note in the program saying that the script was “Edited from archival video footage.” The story is well-structured, and has a strong plot, so none of these zany characters or monologs are thrown in just for the sake of cramming in a funny bit (Solomon manages to stuff in so much humor that there’s no need for gratuitous gags).
This is a story with a message, but the message never gets in the way of the fun. Solomon does jerk a tear or two when playing the young boy who doesn't understand why Santa won't bring him his doll, or when playing Santa's lover (whose identity won't be revealed here), but Santa... is still a comedy at heart. Despite the often farcical nature of the piece, the zaniness doesn’t hold back Solomon’s message that it’s okay to be gay, even if you’re famous.
Solomon’s performing is the equal of his writing. He does a marvelous job of becoming the assorted characters, and convincingly plays a very diverse group of enthnicities, ages, and genders over the course of the show.
Carlo D'Amore's set was both practical and symbolic; there were a lot of locations in the play, so D'Amore had a set with wrapped presents and Christmas lights on one side, and a simple podium on the other, leaving enough space in the center for the projections. Combined with Emily Weiner’s directing, this created the sense of a much larger world on the Where Eagles Dare stage.
Santa Claus is Coming Out is definitely a show to check out, when it makes its inevitable return this holiday season.
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Copyright 2005 Charles Battersby