Review - Naked Holidays & Nancy Dussault at The Metropolitan Room

Before anyone removes a lick of clothing in EndTimes' decidedly secular song and sketch revue, Naked Holidays, an unlikely matchup of a perky and cultured Brit (Ruthie Stephens) and a snarling Mexican heavy metaler (Alessandro Colla) leads the cast of nineteen young and attractive performers, most of whom you will see naked by the evening's end, in a brief orientation of the history of the holidays that grace our December calendars. The sketchy reasons for the celebration of the birth of Christ occurring on December 25th, they conclude, originates from the already present pagan solstice festivals, which were loaded with drunkenness, orgies and crude comedies and spectacles.

And it's in that spirit that the company encourages us to grab another drink from the theatre bar, loosen up and have a kick-ass time. This is no artsy bacchanalia celebrating erotic literary traditions. The only way to enjoy Naked Holidays is to check your good taste at the door, and no further proof is needed than the sketch titled, "No One Enjoys The Holidays More Than Hitler," a scene that has Santa accidentally shot down by Nazi planes while Alex Dunbar, as der fuhrer, demands kisses under the mistletoe and stresses out over the lack of fruitcake.

Other sketches include a confrontation between the new Christmas morning toys and the older, jaded and neglected gifts, a violent revolt against a department store Santa that equates the practice of distributing toys to all children with Socialism and a borderline absurdist playlet that has naked people cavorting in the background as HAnna Stone and Levi Morger try and play out a husband and wife domestic drama. ("They won't entertain you! They won't enlighten you!" a frustratEd Stone screams at the distracted audience.)

With multiple writers and directors, the evening has a casual, pasted-together feel, and while every sketch delivers some laughs, they all tend to fizzle out a bit but usually there's a naked or nearly-naked body just around the bend to keep viewers occupied while waiting for the cleverer moments.

In musical interludes, four fellas wearing nothing but holiday thongs harmonize to Mel Torme and Bob Wells' "The Christmas Song" and a trio of ladies with plastic nativity figures attached to their scant bikinis give a solemn rendering of "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem." But amidst all the raciness, the most memorable moment is a rather innocent one, where the soft-spoken and sweetly smiling Alexandra Scott - the first member of the company to appear completely nude - introduces herself to the audience, tells us she's about to do something that's always been a dream of hers, and sits down to play a simple piano solo of "Skating" from A Charlie Brown Christmas. It's one of those times that might put you a bit on edge, wondering when the crude joke is coming. When it doesn't, we're left with the lovely feeling parents must get when they watch their naked children play a solo at a holiday concert.

Photo by Kaitlin Dale.

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Most people would just spend an intimate evening with their true love to celebrate a 25th wedding anniversary. Instead, Nancy Dussault created a cabaret show. And if you think spending ninety minutes listening to someone singing about how blissfully in love she still is with her husband - appropriately named Valentine - might get annoying after a while, then you haven't seen this adorably funny performer in action.

Her Broadway debut was a 1960 Tony-nominated turn in Do Re Mi, where she not only held her own with stars Phil Silvers and Nancy Walker but got to introduce the soon-to-be standard, "Make Someone Happy." After a stint as a replacement Maria in the original production of The Sound of Music, she nabbed above-the-title billing and another Tony nom for Bajour.

But her knack for comedy caught the attention of that other coast and while Dussault didn't stop doing theatre, it took a baker's dozen years for her to return to Broadway as a replacement in Side By Side By Sondheim. It was there that she met the inspiration for her show, I'm In Love Again, which recently enjoyed an all-too-brief three-performance run at The Metropolitan Room.

Though Dussault explained how she wasn't especially interested when her Side By Side By Sondheim stage manager advised her that his incoming replacement was, "handsome, single and straight," her captivating vocals for Coleman and Leigh's "You Fascinate Me So," highlighted stories of overt flirtations that she was afraid would get her fired. A daffy rendering of Bock and Harnick's "Tonight At Eight" took us through her tensions anticipating their first date and her slow, sensuous tones of longing for Bacharach and David's "The Look of Love" told us she was smitten for good.

Confused, curious and delighted blurts of "No, no, no, no, no" and "Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh" peppered her very funny "Do It Again" (Gershwin/DeSylva) and her more subtle comic sense was put to skilled use for Dave Frishberg's exasperated "Another Song About Paris."

The upper range of her ingénue mezzo has given way to a warm and expressive belt that's coupled with a knowing way with lyrics. Whether she's lending youthful fascination to "It Amazes Me" (Coleman/Leigh) or trumpeting her happiness with "Hooray For Love" (Arlen/Robin), Nancy Dussault is an irresistible charmer.

Photo by Stephen Sorokoff.

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