For over a decade, the comedic burlesque/drag/comedy show Homo for the Holidays has been bringing queer cheer to friends and chosen families of Seattle. The beloved show changed some year to year—a new cast member here or there, new jokes and songs to keep social commentary fresh, but the basic premise remained the same. This year is notably different, with co-producer and long-time hostess of the show BenDeLaCreme moving on from the production. Thankfully, remaining co-producers Kitten LaRue and Lou Henry Hoover jumped on the opportunity to reimagine Homo so that the ‘holigay’ tradition could continue, giving rise to an equally gut-busting and charming show, Jingle All the Gay.
Kitten and Lou are a married couple (on and off stage) whose glittering living room hosts a crowd of quirky characters, from a joint-puffing angel (Redbone of San Francisco), to a tantalizing Fruitcake in thigh-high red boots (Randy Ford), to Jesus Christ himself (ilvs strauss). The inimitable Cherdonna is featured as Kitten’s sister in this story, and Kitten and Lou have a snotty, makeup-blogger daughter, Shelby Lou Who (Abbey Roads), who is so over her weird family. Cleaning up after everyone is a morose Victorian-era butler (UK-based Joe Black) who opens the show with a quick-witted rework of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.
The show is a two hour mix of non-stop delights that bounces between strip-tease, clever word play, dance breaks, and live song. Musical theater-style ensemble numbers fill the West Hall stage in seamless parade of characters popping in at just the right second to grab a laugh or illustrate the lyrics, nailing home a clever pun or cultural reference. Everyone sings, but the two superheroes of Chanukah (Rebecca Mm. Davis and Danny Kam) really get to show off their superlative singing chops.
There’s quite a few fantastic new dance numbers, including Cherdonna and Kitten parodying the classic “Sisters” duet from White Christmas, an alpine skiing hip hop trio, and a full-cast tap piece (!!!) ‘Lil Fruitcake brings a serious dose of sugar with her strutting and voguing. A budding courtship between her and the postman, Mr. Package (Markeith Wiley), is the premise for two duets. One to “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” fuses street styles beautifully with the delicate classical music, the other a steamy, balletic courtship between Ford as the Nutcracker Prince, and Wiley as the Rat King.
Some old favorites remain as well, like Lou’s wobbly solo on ice skates, which alternates between Lou’s child-like joy at the prospect of skating and a discouraged slumping at the difficulty of balancing. It perfectly encapsulates the hope and idealism of the holiday season, and the loneliness and disappointment that is often the reality.
Relatable moments like this are what makes the show so darn charming, but it’s the perfect comedic timing that, from start to finish, has the audience in stitches. Another new character, Bam Bam The Not-So-Little Drummer Boy, is played by an almost impossibly tall Mr. Gorgeous (NYC). He’s got a big-dopey-guy persona that hilariously messes up the choreography in scene after scene.
Between the scintillation and laughter it hardly seems to matter, but the overarching plot doesn’t quite hold together. It’s based around Shelby Lou, who bah-humbugs everything, eventually runs away, and then confusingly returns to defend her family from the household Amazon Alexa. Placing Shelby Lou at the center of the plot is a hard sell because she’s such a brat it’s hard to care about her redemption story. The refreshing new material, however, may be worth a few plot holes. Perhaps future iterations will provide a chance to fine-tune the story-line and bring it to the same level as the other elements of the show.
In one of the final moments, Kitten sings “Nothing in this world lasts forever, and sometimes even chosen families change.” The cast may look a little different this year, but at it’s heart the show remains the same Capitol Hill holiday tradition—a lot of laughs, a smidge of smut, and a whole heap of heart.