Frosty the Snowman is cooking up drugs for Santa Claus. Children, both naughty and nice, are missing. There's a killer on the loose, and apparently he's trying to skin his victims. "I don't want to scare you," sings the sock-puppet serial killer, "... just want to wear you." It's the most wonderful time of the year ... for blood in the premiere of See 'Em on Stage's A Christmassacre Story at The Shadowbox Theatre.
Clarice the Reindeer (a puppet operated by Katie Coplen Bourg) is on a mission to catch a killer. A young boy (a plastic doll) climbed into the back of Buffalo Bill's truck and now he's missing. The show mostly uses puppets — elves, socks and a bare hand — to tell its gruesome tale, which is a mix of The Silence of the Lambs, A Charlie Brown Christmas and Sesame Street.
Puppeteers work behind a wooden backdrop painted with a scene of a wholesome, snow-covered town, and less conventional holiday decor includes a tree decorated with plastic doll parts.
With his face painted white and dressed like a snowman, Burl Ives (Michael Cerveris) narrates the gnarly tale. Cerveris, who performed in the first weekend of the run, is the only actor who didn't use a puppet, and he sang a substantial portion of the show's original songs. With music and lyrics by Paul Sanchez (Nine Lives: A Musical Story of New Orleans) and Mary Lasseigne, the tunes parodied Christmas standards and were as funny as they were gory. Each night, the show featured a musical guest. Though not in sync with the show's tone, John Boutte gave a touching performance of a Christmas song.
As with the company's most recent production, Musical of the Living Dead, there was a good amount of blood spray and a "splatter zone" in the audience. When a character died, the audience got sprayed with red and green fluids. In one scene, Carol Brady (Kimberly Kaye) had her vocal cords ripped out as she tried to sing. Her curly-haired daughter finished the song as blood from Brady's neck spewed over the audience.
There were many holiday jokes in the comedy, but the show dragged when the humor veered into meta-commentary. At a few points, Cerveris turned to director Christopher Bentivegna to make a dig at the production's minimal budget. These moments felt forced, and a bit about killing off the "ethnic" character fell flat.
Clarice eventually confronted the jailed Hannibal Lecter (Logan Faust), the menacing and charming cannibal. The scene's irreverence was particularly satisfying as it led to the final showdown at the most uncomfortable holiday party ever.
A Christmassacre Story might not be right for the entire family, but it's a good time for those who find the holidays a bit scary.