BWW Review: The Rescingos' DECK THE PAULS WITH BOUGHS OF ROBBIE at The Duplex
The Duplex, NYC, December 5th, 2019
Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of year, and spectacular holiday shows throughout New York City are a wonderful, can't miss holiday tradition. All great, for various reasons, few feature a large cast, original music, witty comedy skits, or a story that unfolds within the cabaret. Few or none maybe, that is of course except the Rescignos. For anyone who happens to have ventured out to one of the Rescignos' holiday frolics over the last decade, you understand the incredible journey on which this epic twin duo takes their audience each year. Across all shows on a yearly basis, it's one of the ones that reminds me, "why cabaret?" Whether it's the puns and innuendos on Paul's latest costume, a massive stocking, or the "serious-minded" Robbie cracking a grin after the audience erupts into teary-eyed laughter, this duo deserves a ton of applause for yet another well-orchestrated show.
This year the show boiled down to three phases: jokes and songs referencing Thanksgiving as not having any songs, because it's just a set up for Christmas; jokes about Christmas being stolen and what to do about it; and a "throwback" to the "90's British TV show" that the Rescignos are based on, "The Rescigningtonworth's Christmas," also known as Poff & Ribsy's Splendoferous Crimble Jimble. Certainly, that whole bit's a mouthful, but the truth is watching this duo and laughing is easier than enjoying 5th Avenue during the holiday season, especially when they bring new songs to the table like "Father Christmas is a Tosser."
Essentially, each bit is a skit set up by jokes and references made by Robbie and Paul and the interludes between skits are kept fresh by "the voice of Christmas," John Anderson. Anderson's soothing stereotypical deep male commercial sound makes false ads like "make every day Christmas," sound almost believable until they drift off into, "wtf did I just hear?" It's true he did just say that, "every day should be Christmas," and that feels like good old-fashioned Hallmark card holiday truth. But, then he also went on to say, "If a day's not Christmas, you might as well be cryogenically frozen..." The obvious downside being summed up in the line that you'll be in a "waking ice coma 364 days a year."
The "Thanksgiving Theresa" sequence was led off by Aimeé Cucchiaro Modica as Theresa. She tends to give her all to her roles in a way that makes you wonder if she actually believes what she's saying. Then again, no matter how hard she advocates for Thanksgiving songs to be played on Thanksgiving, instead of Christmas songs, I don't think such classics as "The Brown Song" (sung by Caitlin Thurnauer) are going to catch on. Something about the line, "Everything's brown on Thanksgiving," just doesn't say festive holiday spirit. Granted Theresa (Modica) tried, and "Hey There Big Ol' Turkeyman," had a little bit more pizazz. However, the holiday deity had to face the music when the company performed, "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Hooray!" and Santa stole the show (note he didn't appear on stage lol).
So, how did Thanksgiving break into the Christmas show? Well, apparently Christmas had been stolen by the very own voice of Christmas, John Anderson, who apparently didn't know that the Grinch happened (although that was probably just for stage effect). The brothers had to turn to singing traditional Christmas songs and carrying on, like the Who's in Whoville, to bring back Christmas. First up was special guest Chanel Andrews, whose booming voice on "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" should be one of the tracks on repeat on the "Special Guests of Paul and Robbie Christmas CD," which should be one of the only CDs on your holiday playlist along with, "Paul and Robbie's A Christmas Tale."
It's hard to express just how funny this duo is in words, but perhaps they could reprise some of their best music for a comedy holiday CD that all can enjoy. That is all but Slim Jimothy (performed by Jason Shelton) who was the subject of the next song, "Pottersville." And for those who aren't hardcore Christmas movie fanatics like obviously I'm not, that is the town's name from the brief sequence in, "It's a Wonderful Life," when George Bailey never existed. Frankly, it was hilarious listening to Jimothy (Shelton) list off all the ways he wished George Bailey dead, because, "I was the one guy worse off, because George Bailey's still alive."
And to be honest, even when things don't go well (on purpose), the Rescignos are hilarious. For instance, at this point we're mid-show, and I had already wiped tears from eyes, when Paul convinced Robbie to sing "a classic Christmas song" for the audience. A running, annual gag, has been that Paul makes Robbie look silly by screwing up the song somehow, and last year's "White Christmas" was no exception. However, this year's "Silent Night" appeared to go off without a hitch. Robbie looked around suspiciously after the first verse and began to walk off-stage, only the company began the next verse and so in a painfully awful, though hilarious attempt, he tried to sing the words by waiting for the rest of the cast to sing ahead of him, like we've all done to our favorite CDs when alone in the car. The only difference being that Robbie was on stage, and clearly, the gimmick this year was that he had screwed up his own song. When, they launched into a third verse in German, the embarrassment on Robbie's face was too real to ignore.
Wow, this is definitely the longest review that I've ever written, and frankly there's even more to enjoy about the Paul and Robbie duo. In fact, the Poff & Ribsy's Splendoferous Crimble Jimble still had yet to be John Anderson's gift of Christmas back at this point in the show. And in it the brothers parodied some of their own tropes from a decade of holiday shows such as using trivial things like preferring one color to another to say at the same time in mock jest, "We are very different," (referencing that each Christmas show they highlight Paul and Robbie's differences). It was like watching the first half of the show, but turned British, and with so much nonsensical English that songs like, "It's Crimble Innit?" made a lot of sense.
Music and Lyrics for the show were generally produced by Mike Hadge, including a parody, "We Needs a Smidge of Crimble," of Jerry Herman's "We Need a Little Christmas." The performers for the show including the Rescignos were: John Anderson, Chanel Andrews, Aimeé Cucchiaro Modica, Peter Dagger, Jason Shelton, Catilin Thurnauer, and Rebecca Weiner. I look forward to this incredible cast every year, and special shout out to Rebecca Weiner as one of my favorites as well as new music director, Bryan Blaskie, who was also solid. As special mention it turns out Weiner and Thurnauer were pregnant during the performance, which added an exciting reveal at the end of the show. Enjoy this group! And please remember Father Christmas is a Tosser and Thanksgiving is Brown.