Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale is a fun new holiday musical in Toronto through the New Year
This time of year always tends to result in slim pickings for good theatre — there are only so many versions of Christmas Carols, Nutcrackers, and Messiahs I can take. However, when I saw the ads pop up everywhere for Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale, playing at the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre, I was immediately intrigued by the idea of a rock ‘n roll Christmas musical written by and starring the likes of Dee Snider of Twisted Sister. As a fan of classic rock and metal, how could I not be? With a mixed amount of trepidation and anticipation, I attended.
I’m happy to report that I didn’t regret this decision at all.
To start with, I’m very glad that a legend in the rock music industry was the one to pen a musical poking fun at the rock industry. There’s a necessary level of authenticity in the way rock music is approached by the band members at the heart of the story and in Snider’s commentary in his narration.
In Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale, the hair metal band Daisy Cuter (it’s pronounced ‘Cutter’) has been struggling for years to become successful in the world of rock. Club owner Roxanne (played by 80s pop sensation Taylor Dayne) has had enough and gives the band a week to fill the club with a paying audience before she gives them the boot. Lead singer DD Snutz (Peter Deiwick), realizing that they missed a crucial step in securing their places in rock stardom, decides now is as good as any to sell their souls to Satan. From this point on things don’t go quite as planned and hilarity ensues.
Snider assures that this is a family-friendly holiday musical. I wouldn’t necessarily take young children to the show, but kids aged 8 and above, with open-minded guardians, would have a grand ole time.
Christmas Tale is a fun, light-hearted take on the traditional filled-with-the-spirit-of-Christmas story. It’s not overly preachy or saccharine. The music is a lot of fun and a great blend of classic Twisted Sister songs and Christmas carols that breathe life into the carols, making it upbeat and exciting, less like the music playing in shopping malls at this time of year. I particularly loved “The Price,” the epic power ballad between Roxanne and Ralph (Spencer Robson) which is as delightfully over the top as all great power ballads are. This show will make you laugh whether or not you’re a fan of rock music.
Snider is a joy to watch as both the narrator and the exorcist. Anyone familiar with his long body of work knows that he’s the rock front man that never took himself too seriously, so neither is his work in this show. He’s managed to integrate just the right amount of audience participation (through the red and green key-chain flashlights handed out to the crowd, to the applause and sing-a-long cue cards used during the show) that makes for a fun way to get involved without anyone feeling singled out.
I wasn’t very familiar with Dayne’s original work as a recording artist, but I found her energy as Roxanne to be fun and vibrant. I also enjoyed Deiwick as Snutz, who delivered his performance with an enthusiastic level of charisma needed in a rock front man. The inclusion of Josh Murray as Santa (known as He Who Shall Not be Named in the electronic playbill) and Tim Funnell as MC Dedrok were also entertaining to watch.
What I really appreciated out of the whole performance was at the end, Snider and director Adam John Hunter took the time to recognize and thank the crew behind the scenes whose hard work and efforts are rarely given the accolades they deserve.
Dee Snider’s Rock n Roll Christmas Tale is one of those shows that everyone feels hesitant about at first, but are converted once they’ve seen it. It’s fun, it’s lively, it’s the kind of show you want to see at this time of year that doesn’t require very much emotional heavy lifting.
- Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale is playing at the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre (189 Yonge St) until January 3, 2016.
- Performances run Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm, with weekend matinees and early evening shows on Saturday at 3:00 pm, and Sunday at 1:30 pm and 5:30 pm.
- Tickets range from $39.95 – $99.95 and are available online via Ticketmaster, by phone by calling 1-855-622-ARTS (2787), or in person at the Elgin and Winter Garden box office.
- Audience advisory: bright lights and strobe lights. Playbill is a digital download accessible via scanning the QR code or by visiting the link (see flyer in house for details).
Photo of Kevin Fox, Spencer Robson, Peter Deiwick, and Sean Kelly by Sonia Recchia/George Pimentel Photo