Review: SANTASIA – A HOLIDAY COMEDY at Whitefire Theatre

South Park and Saturday Night Live vibes meet the North Pole in this wildly entertaining musical sketch comedy show through December 23

By: Dec. 04, 2023
Review: SANTASIA – A HOLIDAY COMEDY at Whitefire Theatre

Santasia – A Holiday Comedy is a must-see sketch comedy take on the glory and insanity of the holidays at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks, created by and starring Brandon and Shaun Loeser.  Ongoing for 24 years and frequently sold out at every show, with performances in Los Angeles and Off-Broadway in New York, Santasia is a phenomenon.  Whether you are joyfully marinating in Christmas spirit right now, or you are plugging up your ears at every holiday tune, you will find something to love and laugh about in this irreverent, uncensored comedic romp.

This is South Park and Saturday Night Live vibes meet the North Pole.  Almost impossible for me to describe, I can only tell you that I loved every deranged minute of Santasia – A Holiday Comedy.

There are comedy sketches, full-on musical dance numbers, short films, slo-mo snowball fights and direct-to-audience, cozy fireside monologues.  There is Santa as Marlon Brando from The Godfather. There are elves gloriously reenacting The Full Monty dance, teasingly removing their red aprons and gyrating around the theatre.  There are hot-headed pilot deer fighting it out for supremacy in Top Deer.  There are elves striking for better working conditions (evoking the writers’ and actors’ strikes this year) and Santa’s Workshop experiencing a diversity, equity and inclusion initiative (“I’m not working with a f-ing ogre!” / “we don’t use the O word anymore”). There are laments about the indignities and tragedies of the holidays in The Snowblock Tango, inspired from Chicago (“so I was at this Toys R Us in Marina Del Ray…”).  There is the Virgin Mary on Jerry Springer.  There are perverse, bizarre and glorious stop motion animation films blending Pulp Fiction and Christmas characters (“in Italy, you know what they call fruitcake? Panettone.”).  There are angels who have worn out their welcome as telemarketing heralds.

The Whitefire Theatre is used quite inventively by the production. Santasia has a wonderful, distinct atmosphere from the moment you arrive, from the cozy lobby stuffed with adorable holiday decorations to the free platters of Christmas cookies and piping hot apple cider, and photo opportunities outside with a sleigh and a surprise appearance from the Yeti.  It is a total experience to go to this show, and it already feels like the pinnacle of my holiday season.

Review: SANTASIA – A HOLIDAY COMEDY at Whitefire Theatre
Brandon Loeser, Shaun Loeser,
and Rusty Locke star in Santasia

Show creators and brothers Brandon Loeser (Conan, For All Mankind, Silicon Valley, Westworld, Superstore, True Blood, Justified, Children's Hospital, The Dark Knight, The Tonight Show, and General Hospital) and Shaun Loeser (Shining Vale, AP BIO, Malibu Rescue, Step Brothers, Conan, American Horror Story, CSI, General Hospital, NCIS LA, The Amazing Spider-Man and True Blood) bring their impressive backgrounds in television, film, improv and sketch comedy, and stunt work into creating this one-of-a-kind, cult hit show.

The cast of Santasia could not be funnier.  Bold and ferociously hilarious Tara Jean O'Brien (Jury Duty, Conan O’Brien, Tosh.0, Teachers, General Hospital, comedic writing for The Onion) shines as a foul-mouthed elf and as a woman who has it up to here with angel telemarketing.  Actor, associate producer and co-writer Rusty Locke (former child actor now specializing in physical comedy and swordfighting, known for No Concept of Time, Deadlist Warrior, Battles B.C., and Gilmore Girls) is completely brilliant, especially reinventing a Pulp Fiction monologue and talking about the self-pleasurable parts of the holidays.  Adam Slemon ( improv and film actor also producing live TV shows like the Oscars, the Emmys, Billboard Music Awards, Independent Spirit Awards, Harry Styles Live, and Elton John Live) is astonishingly versatile and hilarious, especially in a Snowblock Tango, lamenting his anguished search for the last toy on earth in Marina Del Ray.  Omar Heyward (Shameless, Grey's Anatomy, Counterpart, Snowfall, American Horror Story, 9-1-1, Get Out and Black Panther) is a powerhouse treasure and a gift to the show, bringing unexpected poignancy and depth to many scenes, especially his fireside monologue, but also standing out for his glorious, unabashed, full-throttle exotic elf dancing.  Show creators Brandon Loeser and Shaun Loeser are fearless, inventive and gifted comics, recalling comedy legends Robin Williams and Will Ferrell.

Review: SANTASIA – A HOLIDAY COMEDY at Whitefire Theatre
Brandon Loeser, Shaun Loeser, Rusty Locke,
and cast of Santasia

Superbly talented choreographer, producer, co-writer and assistant director Tania L Pearson-Loeser (Goliath, Criminal Minds, Alice in Wonderland, Chuck, NCIS, General Hospital, Conan O’Brian Show, Conan O’Brian Prohibited Tour) makes Santasia dynamic and immersive, with fantastic dance sequences and high energy sketches. Brilliant musical direction from Stacey Quinealty (musical producer and designer for Universal Studios, known for his work with Warner Brothers, McDonalds, Honda, Mitsubishi, Acura, Hewlett-Packard, Ford and many more) brings warmth and richness to the show.  There is evocative, perfectly timed lighting design from Wynn Zucchero (known for his work with Disney, Universal Studios, Six Flags and Paramount theme parks, and events for Disney, Google, Microsoft, Paramount, Warner Brothers, Art Contemporary Los Angeles and Ipsy).

I adored the fresh, excellent writing from Brandon Loeser, Shaun Loeser, Tania L Pearson-Loeser and Rusty Locke, perfectly poised between manic cynicism and a dopey, nostalgic sweetness and hopefulness about the spirit of Christmas.  This is a demented and addictive show with a black heart of gold.

It is a strange sensation to laugh about the most perverse, unhinged comedy sketches and then feel, at the end, something truly heartwarming and touching in all the madness, but it is really there in Santasia, thanks to brilliant performances from this great cast, consistently great writing, and the huge heart Shaun Loeser brings to his monologue about hanging up the holiday lights in the freezing Chicago snow with his now-deceased dad.  “The things we hate and dread the most are the things we miss the most,” he tells us.

This, my friends, feels like the much-maligned spirit of Christmas, and it doesn’t get better than that.

Photos by Michael Duisenberg - Michael D Creations and Brandon Loeser

SANTASIA - A Holiday Comedy runs through December 23 at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks.  The Whitefire Theatre is located at 13500 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks 91423.  You can get tickets by clicking the button below: