Review: Naughty But Nice delivers its final, wickedly funny Christmas gift to fans

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With a little help from some friends, Joe Slabe is giving Naughty But Nice, his adult holiday musical, the loud, proud sendoff it deserves.

Now in its 10th, and sadly final, year, Naughty But Nice is as fresh, clever, risque, and subversive as it ever was, but its few nice moments are still sweet, sentimental and heartfelt.

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When Slabe created Naughty a decade ago, he asked fellow composers to write non-traditional holiday songs. In Naughty Xmas!, as this version is called, Slabe features songs from nine of those contributors, plus seven of his own. In every case, these are songs where the lyrics are what raise the eyebrows, elicit howls and cheers, put smiles on faces, or warm the heart. This was the forte of Stephen Sondheim, America’s foremost musical theatre creator, and it’s a skill that’s also dear to Slabe’s heart.

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Slabe provides the piano accompaniment and even has a brief cameo as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Throughout the years, Calgarian Dan Perrott has given Naughty some of its most memorable songs including The Best Christmas Movie Ever, Brendan the Brown-Nosed Reindeer, Pimp My Tree and The Fireplace Man. This year he adds Kids’ Table to his collection of hits, a song about those younger adults who must share their holiday meal with the kids.

As much fun as they are, none of the songs would have the impact they do without the staging that JP Thibodeau gives them. Naughty owes as much to him as it does to Slabe, and he has outdone himself this time. He enhances every song with clever nuances. Thibodeau’s set is a collection of gift-wrapped boxes and bags which hold all the set pieces, props and extra costume pieces the actors require. The images Thibodeau projects on the back screen consistently add to the amusement.

Naughty But Nice!
Forte Musical Theatre’s production of Naughty… but Nice: Xmas! Courtesy, Tim Nguyen Photo by Tim Nguyen Co. /Tim Nguyen Co.

Danielle Desmarais’ choreography is zippy, as is Eden Slabe-Hutchinson’s animation, Darcie Howe’s costumes, and Tara Kiely’s sound effects. All the pieces of this intricate little jigsaw puzzle come together beautifully and seamlessly, belying just how much talent, effort and skill it all took.

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Scott Olynek returns for an eighth time, and Bailey’s For Breakfast is now as much his signature song as it is Slabe’s, who wrote it. He sings it with such impish glee, a trait he also brings to Slabe’s Santa’s My Daddy, a risque favourite Olynek shares this year with Katelyn Morishita and Katherine Fadum.

Morishita and Fadum have great fun teasing the humour out of Why Do I Live Where the Air Hurts My Face?, Perrott’s ode to Calgary’s winter weather, and they instantly create characters any parent who ever waited outside their child’s school or bus stop can identify with. Morishita and Fadum bring genuine sweetness and pathos to Slabe’s A Perfect New Year’s Eve. These are a pair of true triple-threat performers.

Fadum leads the company in Perrott’s A Christmas PSA which warns audience members what happens if they put up Christmas decorations in November. Thibodeau allows Fadum to resurrect a small portion of her wonderful attack on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Match Girl.

Morishita turns Jeff Thompson and Jordan Mann’s bawdy torch song, Waiting Up For Santa, into the evening’s showstopper.

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This may be Eric Wigston’s first appearance in a Naughty show but you’d never know it because he oozes the cheeky charm, charisma and confidence this show demands. Wigston gets to be the greaser who wants Fadum to watch Die Hard on Christmas Eve, as he eagerly acts out scenes from it for her. He’s also the guy who has a crush on a co-worker in Secret Santa, and the stressed-out guy who needs A Little Glass Of Wine in order to spend an evening with his future in-laws.

A true highlight of the evening is Naughty But Nice: Greatest Hits which includes snippets from former classics, reminding audiences that, in these 10 years, these shows have featured 65 original songs, a feat that is something to sing about.

Naughty But Nice, which runs at cSPACE King Edward until Dec.2 3, is one of those wonderful holiday gifts that keep on giving so take it in while you still can.

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