Art lovers like to revisit their holiday favorites at this time of year. Ballet enthusiasts flock to The Nutcracker and classical music lovers go to Handel’s Messiah.
Me? I’m a musical theater buff. Last weekend I caught my favorite show – perhaps you’ve seen it? If not, there’s just one more week for you to catch a local performance of this holiday classic…
The Wal-Mart Christmas Musical
The entire play takes place in a Super Wal-Mart. It is Sunday afternoon during the busy, holiday shopping season.
Here’s the story in a nutshell: Our heroine is a young ingenue who looks almost exactly like me. She has been sprinkled with holiday cheer fairy dust and sent on a quest in the Land of Wal-Mart. She must find another strand of the same brand of lights she bought last year, to finish the string dangling 1 foot short of the bottom of her Christmas tree. Then she must get checked out and back to her car before the fairy dust wears off and she turns into a mean, bitchy old crone.
The show opened with Miley Cyrus’ spiritual performance of “I’d Rather Be Naughty, So $&%# You, Santa!” In honor of the season, she updated her usual bra-and-panty costume with a sprig of mistletoe, strategically placed. As for Miley’s dance routine, let’s just say I will never look at a humble candy-cane the same way again.
Next up, one of the female leads (imaginatively costumed in skin-tight black stretch pants and a shirt cut low enough to reveal a pair of angels tattooed on the upper slopes of her ample…er, charms,) softly crooned a simple ballad to the 5 ragged children gathered around her cart: ” I TOLD You 20 Times!” The chorus went something like this:
“I TOLD you 20 times you gotta be 8 years old before Santa will bring you “Call of Duty, Black Ops.” I’m going to have your daddy (Rodney, that guy whose staying with us and kinda like your daddy) WHUP YOUR A** if you ask me ONE more time!”
I wasn’t the only one who left the show humming THAT moving tune.
The children’s choir almost stole the show with their rousing hit, “I Want THAT!” The lyric was not complicated – only “I Want THAT”, over and over – but the performance elevated the words to art. The volume of their childish cries built and built to a mighty crescendo. The number ended with the whole choir falling to the floor in the aisles, kicking its collective heels. Unforgettable.
The Greeter’s Gospel Choir’s a-Capella rendition of “Go Tell It On The Mountain (The Holidays Are Here)” had everyone clapping along. The reworked lyrics explained in an uplifting, catchy way how if the store employees said “Merry Christmas” at the door, it would be the same as forcing shoppers to join a church and submit to full-immersion baptism just to get in the store. Entertaining and really thought provoking.
But the showstopper was the big production number finale.
I took a couple of dance classes as a kid, so I’m familiar with steps like the flap-ball-change. But I’ve never seen the moves the Wal-Mart Shoppers Dance Troupe perfected for this extravaganza, a routine they call the Oblivious Shuffle.
Each shopper/dancer leaned on his or her cart and pushed it slowly, oh so slowly, back and forth across the stage. Their shuffling gate kept one shoe (or house slipper, as the case may be) on the floor at all times. The shuffling feet made a “shush, shush” sound that underscored the “squeak, squeak” of their unoiled cart wheels. The occasional crash of colliding carts played like cymbals in the composition.
About half of the dancers had cell phones pressed to their ears. One at a time, each burst into song with lyrics like “…so that witch my baby-daddy is with now said they couldn’t take the kids on Christmas Eve and I told HER, if you think I’m going to pick them up on HIS weekend, you can just tell that &%$#…” Their solos were incomprehensible, one-sided conversations when taken by themselves. Together, they wove a timeless Christmas story.
The dancers went through their movements with vacant, glassy stares that gave the illusion that they were totally unaware of everyone else around them.
Think of Night of the Living Dead as a ballet.
Meanwhile, the young ingenue wove her cart skillfully in and out of the shuffling throng, trying to get to the registers. The checkers each turned their lights off as she approached, crying “price check on 10″, “change needed on 5”, “register frozen on 8“ in a surprisingly harmonious medley. The audience held their breath when a determined shopper with 2 carts piled high cut in front of our heroine in the “15 items or less” lane, but there was no crash – it was all part of the show.
I don’t want to give away the ending in case you decide to see the show. Suffice it to say our ingenue bore a marked resemblance to the apple-wielding hag in Snow White as she trudged to the car with her packages at the end.