Email
Password
Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageReview: Dumb but sometimes amusing ‘Rock & Roll Christmas’ opens in T.O. Special

By Jeff Cottrill     Dec 10, 2015 in Entertainment
Toronto - “Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale” sounds like an absurd parody TV special from “The Simpsons” or “SCTV”. In fact, it kept reminding me of the old “KISS Saves Santa” bit from “Family Guy.” In 2015, life imitates silly art.
Yes, Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale is a thing that exists, as a holiday-themed, Rock of Ages-style stage musical starring the Twisted Sister frontman and another aging 1980s pop star, Taylor Dayne. It had its world premiere in Chicago last year and opened last night at Toronto’s Winter Garden Theatre for a holiday run. It’s dumb and cheesy and loud and corny and full of spandex, but it’s also funny at times and, in the final analysis, more fun than it has any real right to be.
Part of that is due to Snider’s own commanding stage presence — he narrates the tale and also has a small role as a psychic — and to Dayne’s still-strong vocal skills. It’s also due to a great, funny performance by We Will Rock You’s Peter Deiwick, who plays D.D. Snutz, the narcissistic, Ozzy Osbourne-wannabe lead singer of hair-metal outfit Däisy Cüter. (The second word is pronounced “cutter”; when confronted about the orthography issue, D.D. snaps: “There’s no spelling in metal!”)
Part Van Halen and part Spinal Tap, Däisy Cüter is a living anachronism that plays to empty rooms at Dazzle, a club run by Roxanne (Dayne). They’ve been trying to make it big since the early ’90s, but the crowds would rather go to the DJ gigs upstairs at the club. A week before Christmas, Roxanne tells the band to pack the venue or pack their bags; when Dazzle’s arrogant, showboating DJ (Tim Funnell) mentions in passing the urban legend about Led Zeppelin selling their souls for success, D.D. puts the group through a Satanic transaction ceremony of his own.
But devil deals never go exactly as planned, and the band’s newfound local popularity comes at a price: guitarist Johnny (Sean Kelly), bassist Tank (Kevin Fox) and drummer Ralph (Spencer Robson) find themselves playing metal renditions of sappy Christmas tunes like “Silver Bells” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” while in a daze onstage. (If you’ve always wanted to hear a mashup of Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “O Come All Ye Faithful,” this is your big chance.) I won’t spoil the twist, which reveals the reason for the holiday songs, but it’s pretty funny, and you may smack yourself for not figuring it out sooner.
It’s a flimsy, contrived plot with dialogue that’s often at a sitcom level; sometimes the show feels like a short rock concert with a storyline tacked on, devised to showcase the singing talents of Dayne and Deiwick. The short running time (95 minutes without intermission) suggests that Snider — who wrote the book and all the songs, including reworked versions of Sister staples “I Wanna Rock” and “Burn in Hell” — couldn’t come up with enough good material to pad the show to a full running time, which may disappoint some audience members who were expecting more.
And yet, even if you’re not a Snider or metal fan, you may have a good time in spite of yourself. Now and then, Snider’s script and Adam Hunter’s fine direction score some good comedic moments, such as when Tank has to put on reading glasses to go over D.D.’s written contract, or when Ralph uses the glowing red nose of a giant Rudolph stuffed doll as a swaying lighter during a Dayne song. When Snider introduces his character as “a psychic – medium,” the clueless Tank says, “I didn’t know they came in different sizes.” Following the group’s first post-Satan-contract gig, Deiwick has a hilarious, frantic monologue about how disappointed the Dark Lord must be about the new Christmas numbers. “Congratulations, guys – you made Satan sad!” he says.
(Also worth noting: in the sign with Dazzle’s name, the second “z” is backwards, which makes the two zeds slightly resemble the old Twisted Sister logo. This is by far the subtlest joke in the show.)
The most disappointing aspect of Christmas Tale may be its inoffensiveness. For a stage show about a metal band selling its souls to Satan, it’s as toothless and PG-rated as you can get. Of course it’s a Christmas show aimed at families, some of whom may include parents nostalgic for those crazy hair-metal days of their youth. But it also illustrates the softening aspect that time has on pop culture that was once considered edgy and dangerous. Long after the shock value of Marilyn Manson and Eminem and gangsta rap has worn off, the likes of Twisted Sister and Mötley Crüe and Poison must look as square and harmless to millennials as Elvis Presley did to Generation X. (Should we brace for a future TV airing of Charlie Sheen’s Happy Kiddie Easter Sing-Along?)
It’s probably foolish and fruitless to analyze the show’s cultural implications, though. It’s just lightweight holiday fare with no other purpose than to make some money off 80s nostalgia while having a good time. And your own enjoyment of Christmas Tale depends on your expectations, really. If you like generic pop metal with a festive twist, without the annoying inconveniences of originality or depth or complex plot, this is the show to see. If not, well, you don’t have to take it.
Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale plays at the Winter Garden Theatre until January 3.
More about dee snider, twisted sister, Theatre, musical theatre, Rock music
More news from
Entertainment Video
Latest News
Top News