A Bundolo Of Laughs At The Santaland DiariesWednesday, November 28, 2012
As a Latin American by birth it has taken me many years to adapt, adopt and then enjoy two concepts that heretofore were alien to me. One was the theatrical, and movie musical (people talking, suddenly, for no reason at all burst into song) and the other of going to a small joint, pay money at the door and then sit down to listen to standup comics.
My frequent ventures into Arts Club Theatre musicals (I look forward this week to White Christmas) made me a fan. Standup comedy took a bit longer but finally CBC Radio’s most intelligent program, The Debaters won me over to the side of comedy. I wrote about it here and would you believe that I received an email communication from Bernie Lucht, producer of the more serious CBC Radio program Ideas telling me that he agreed and that perhaps Ideas would incorporate more humour into their mix.
If someone were to ask me who the two funniest men in Vancouver would be I would instantly blurt out two names. One might be familiar, Ryan Beil, the other not so. That other is Bill Reiter who was one of the stars of CBC Radio’s (1972 to 1981) Dr. Bundolo's Pandemonium Medicine Show. It was the funniest radio show I ever heard until The Debaters came along.
Since the Dr. Bundolo’s radio show demise, Bill Reiter has appeared in film and TV and made perhaps as many TV voiceover commercials as Donald Sutherland.
The Debaters and Ryan Beil’s opening night performance tonight (The Arts Club Theatre Company’s Granville Island Stage) of David Sedaris’s (adapted by Joe Mantello) of The Santaland Diaries both deal with subjects that normally cannot be broadcast by serious radio. It would be too daring. Mask the daring with humour and almost nobody notices the killer content.
In a season where lights are up a day after and usually many days before Halloween (my neighbor’s house, across the street is an alien spacecraft from Close Encounters of the Third Kind) it is difficult not to be cynical of a holiday which no longer can be identified with the big C.
Beil, through Sedaris’s words gave us a rat-tat-tat cynical view on Christmas seen from the inside, a Santaland elf, called Crumpet, at Macy’s.
As my Rosemary and I watched and laughed I thought of another inside view of Christmas that I have been privy to. Some years ago a woman stalked a swimming instructor at Simon Fraser University. Most, by now have forgotten. The young woman in question worked for a couple of years as a mall Santa’s helper. The photographer who ran the business had problems with her as she wore skimpy outfits and the constant bending over to adjust Santa’s beard, etc caused the parents of children to be exposed to visions of Rudolph and sugar plums not in the Christmas curriculum. I wonder what Sedaris with the expert help of Beil could do with that?
Christmas is all gushing family time and nostalgia. Consider the play It’s a Wonderful Life or the musical White Christmas, both being performed by the Arts Club. The former is on right now at the Granville Island Stage and the latter begins on Wednesday, December 5. For me the perfect combination of these two plays would have Beil in the Santaland Diaries as a palate cleanser (the Champagne) between the two sweet main courses. Alas for me I am not to see them in that order! But see all three I will!
Before Beil showed up for my portrait in his changing room I had a short chat with Stage Manager, Peter Jotkus. For any photographer and or journalist who might be reading this you should know that after the director the second most important person in any theatrical show is the Stage Manager. If you want access you have to make sure to be polite and to ask nicely!
Jotkus told me of the complexity (over 70 lighting cues) and the many movings of the cubes and panels during the 75 minute long show. If you think Beil has a tough time you have to consider what happens backstage including the Apprentice Stage Manager, Lucy Pratt-Johnson, who plays a silent elf besides all the other stuff she has to do. I asked about the light and sound effect of the Santa Claus camera. It seems this took four hours of testing until director John Murphy and Lighting Director Ted Roberts were satisfied. Having seen Murphy's Petruchio in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew this year at Bard on the Beach I must say everybody must have been hopping to make this a darn funny and very tight show.