A Very Tamarie Christmas
Thru Aug 30
1119 East Frwy.
For some Houstonians, August means weekends on South Padre Island, floating down the Guadalupe River, and camping in the Hill Country. For the theater set, August means it’s time for Tamarie Cooper to take center stage at the Catastrophic Theatre. This year marks the 17th installment of Cooper’s musical comedy series, and this one might very well be the perfect introduction to the series for the uninitiated. A Very Tamarie Christmas is a big-hearted, fun-spirited laugh-fest that critiques the three-month marathon of food, family, and frenzied shopping that we know as the holiday season.
After the show’s big opening number, Tamarie explains that she’s always wanted to put on a Christmas show with all the yuletide trappings – the lights, the snow, the television specials, the whole shebang. But just as the festivities are about to get underway, her cast gets all politically correct on her. She can’t do a show about Christmas because not everyone is Christian, she can’t do a show about a generic holiday because holiday means “holy day,” and she can’t do a show about an unnamed happy occasion, because, let’s face it, that’s just being mean to people with depression.
Hence, Tamarie’s Christmas extravaganza is turned into “A Secular Commemoration of an Unspecified Event.” The opening musical number is followed by “There Are Plenty of Days to Celebrate,” and they’re both strong examples of the exceptional craftsmanship of the songwriting. Three of the songs were written and composed by Joe Folladori while the rest were composed by Miriam Daly with lyrics by Miki Johnson, Patrick Reynolds, and Tamarie Cooper, but all are uniformly smart, thoughtful, and incredibly funny. The audience learns quite a bit, too, such as the existence of the Union of Lesser Known Holidays, which includes Flag Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Susan B. Anthony Day, Administrative Professionals’ Day, and Arbor Day, the latter personified by a scene-stealing Kyle Sturdivant. Now that Christmas is out of the way, each holiday vies for Tamarie’s affection, but nothing quite compares.
The music of A Very Tamarie Christmas is supported by an observant book by Patrick Reynolds, especially in showing how popular culture can warp these important commemorations. In the Easter section, not even the Easter Bunny knows the origins of his holiday’s pastel-colored traditions. He and Tamarie discuss the pagan origins and Christian undertones of fertility worship to come to a simple conclusion: Easter is the Wal-Mart of holidays because just about everything is in it. From the show’s satirical point of view, Thanksgiving is no longer about giving thanks, or even about sharing food with the extended family. It’s now a countdown to Black Friday, and no one, not even the turkey on the table (another great Sturdivant character) can resist a marked-down big-screen television. Then there’s what you might call the fake holidays, like Earth Day, a corporate-sponsored celebration of Mother Earth.
After skewering all the other holidays, Tamarie does eventually get her Christmas, but Tamarie Cooper the actress also gets another fine star vehicle for her multiple talents. She’s also in fine company; the 19-actor cast is made up of performers with varying levels of experience, but all are in excellent form. Their love for the material is palpable, and is the ultimate reminder why, no matter how much we make fun of the holidays, we still love celebrating them.