They had me at “hello” – or in this case, walking into the theater. We walked into the OBT to the strains of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, which always puts me in the mood for Christmas. Given that we have a couple of die hard Marvel fans in the family, OBT’s X-Mas Men seemed like a great way to kick off the Christmas season.
Written by Eric R. Jensen, X-Mas Men takes the classic Claymation Christmas cartoons “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer” and “The Santa Clause 3” with a hefty helping of Mystery Science Theater 3000. The X-Mas Men (Chris Harvey as Lionwing, Andrea Kile Peterson as Snowstorm and Chance Le Prey as Loco) were formed when evil Jack Frost (Mike Brown) bombed the Island of Misfit Toys with gamma radiation in an effort to kill Santa aka Father Xmas (Bus Riley). The X-Mas Men have to protect Father Xmas from Jack Frost’s attempts to ruin Christmas. The only denizen of the Island of Misfit Toys that did not appear to get any super powers was Kirby the dentist Elf (Clarence Strohn).
Director Jillene Stark ably directed this show, but we felt that there were times when the action on the stage was too loose. We understand that with an improv troupe-type show, that is often a fine line to walk, but there were times when the actors needed to be reined in just a little.
The OBT set design crew (Eric R. Jensen, Clint Lehmberg, Rob Reins and Lee Wailes) have certainly been having fun lately trying to throw in as many random pop culture references (this time it was “Lion King”, “The Incredible Hulk” and “Titanic”) into the set design as they can. That creativity draws you in so that you can see the details of the rest of the set. Our son and his friend (both theater majors in college who joined us for the show) immediately pointed out the Winter Throne and the detail there-in.
We really enjoyed the costumes (Eric R. Jensen and Janice Jensen). You could tell that there was a lot of effort put into the costumes, especially for Jack Frost, Kirby, Rudolph (Tenisha Hicks), Mistaque and the Narrator (Jim Stark).
Sound (Cali Anderson, Jackson Maestas, Dave Cooke and Eric R.Jensen) had a few issues this time around, but leave it to OBT to turn a crackling mic into a three-minute long skit! It was hysterical! That said, I would have mic’d the elves for their opening song. The kids were just not confident enough in themselves to really project and the jokes were lost. There were also a couple of times mics did not come on in time for the actors to speak so some lines were not very easily heard.
As leads, Santa and Jack Frost were wonderfully cast. They did a great job anchoring the show. However, the show was stolen by Clarence Strohn (Kirby), Kyle Larson (Ice Guard) and Alisa Rodgers Spafford (Mistaque the Jell-o). Even when they were not speaking, their movement on the stage kept drawing your eyes toward them. The choreography (Jillene Stark) for Santa, Loco and Lionwing when they are really Mistaque was also hysterical. All three actors threw themselves into the movement with gusto.
The biggest complaint that all four of us had was we wished there was more from the three title characters – the X-Mas men. It seemed like more thought was put into the lines for more minor characters (Ice Guard and Elfis Sean B. King). It would have been nice to see these characters have a little more to do than just pose and fight one another.
Off Broadway Theater
272 S Main St, Downtown Salt Lake City, UT 84101
November 21st – December 27th 7:30 pm on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays
Adults = $16
Students (13+)/Seniors (65+)/Military Members = $12
Children (2-12) = $10