Adam Wollerton reviews Santaphrenia, a Christmas musical with an x-rated difference.
Santaphrenia, the Bad Santa Christmas Musical with a sexy twist, launched in Leicester Square Theatre this week and press night went down a tasty treat to say the least. Although capturing the melodramatic ethos of a pantomime, this is certainly a different theatrical cracker for audiences to enjoy this festive season.
The smaller of the two venues within Leicester Square Theatre initially struck me as an odd place to stage a musical. However, the cast and Director, Jamie Chapman Dixon, made innovative use of the space and really brought their production to life. The set was minimal but the performances from the actors didn’t demand an elaborate set, and the use of a TV screen and a computer programme known as Christmas Logarithmic Interface Technology, or C.L.I.T for short, had the audience in hysterics every time it graced the scene.
The audience interaction from characters such as the tightly clad villainous Nutcracker and smouldering second wife Mrs Clause kept the audience on the edge of their seats not knowing quite what to expect whenever they broke the boundary of the stage. On this note, Nutcracker, played by Tom Read Wilson, was played with great focus, character embodiment and conviction, and kept the audience laughing with frequent references to the handsome ‘Santa Boy’ and his minion ‘Sour Balls’.
The script had moments of great promise but then also a few odd juvenile moments such as the lead girl, Crystal who disguises herself as her alter ego Kandy Kane, stating to the lead boy that he is full of lies and can’t tell the truth… Pot, kettle, black… Followed by a revelation by the lead boy, Malcolm, enthusing about what Christmas should really be about. However, it seemed a little lacklustre and not all that convincing. When paired against others in the cast that appeared to completely invest in the melodramatic and ironic nature of the show, such as Santa and Vixen to name but a few, it becomes obvious when someone wasn’t completely engaged with their character.
It is a shame as Sam Turrell’s character was strong during the song ‘Seven Minutes’. A bit of refocusing and a look at character intention here would help as the role isn’t particularly vocally demanding but he is intended to carry the storyline of the show. The progression from dickhead to sensitive Christmas soul needs to be more transitional rather than a sudden change of heart. Take back the stage!
Despite this, the show had a natural flow with a simplistic storyline that fitted the style. The aforementioned lead girl, Sarah Goggins, had an astounding voice and was definitely the highlight of the show. The ability to capture two different personas had us questioning whether this was meant to be the same girl or if in fact this was a completely separate character. Alongside her, Vixen, played by Catherine Millsom, was perfect. Her obvious attention to detail in character development pays off on stage as she delivers a committed, hilarious, and bountiful performance totalling in a great creation of stage presence.
Opposite her, the almost toy like and satirical Santa Clause, played by Sam Haughton, was a delight to watch. His portrayal of the demise of Santa from honest holiday Ho-ho-ho-er to bong blowing bum was hilarious and touching at the same time. When the rest of the cast pull together to break Santa out of his depression, the audience are treated to the song ‘Santa’s Not A Paedo’ which yet again had everyone laughing.
If you’re looking for a different way to enjoy the festive season this year, get on down to Leicester Square Theatre and sink your teeth into something a little more naughty. Santa Clause really is cumming to town…