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Review: THIS IS HALLOWEEN at The Can Can

Review: THIS IS HALLOWEEN at The Can Can

The Can Can brings their bawdy “nightmare” to The Triple Door.

Review: THIS IS HALLOWEEN at The Can Can
Tim Keller in This Is Halloween from The Can Can.
Photo credit: Nate Watters

The Can Can, Seattle's fabulous burlesque house, celebrates the 15th anniversary of their collaboration with The Triple Door by bringing back their ode to Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas" with their tantalizing "This Is Halloween". And while this naughty nightmare has much of what you'd want from a Can Can show, one aspect continued to be quite frustrating, at least for me. Clarity.

It's not like I don't understand the show. It's a Burton-esque nightmare that follows along mostly with the movie. Jack Skellington (played by Tim Keller), the Pumpkin King and ruler of Halloweentown, searches for more than scares. He discovers a doorway to Christmastown and finds a whole new world of joy and feels he can bring that joy back to his own people. But he needs to get Sandy Claws (what he thinks they are calling Santa Claus) out of the way first.

Most know the 1993 film and its songs. And as I've stated before, I'm one of the few who doesn't care for it. I just don't think Danny Elfman's songs are very good. They're just way too repetitious and say very little. But people do love them, making the film an enduring classic for many so it's a small wonder that this burlesque version would be so popular year after year. It has changed over the years. I remember seeing it back in 2018 where much of the cast was different which also led to some variations to the intent of the characters. Most notably the main villain of the piece Oogie Boogie, but we'll get to that in a minute.

The adaptation from Can Can Artistic Director Chris Pink is quite lively and fun. All the main characters are there in some stunning yet skimpy costumes. And the choreography from Fae Phalen is her usual amazing. The dancers flip, slither, and contort in ways that dazzle. And even with sticking to the look and feel of the original film, the costumes still have that burlesque bend to them. Basically sparkly, tighter, and less material. The costume for Zero, Jack's ghost dog, for example, played by the incredibly bendable Cesar Pinzon, has few secrets. The visuals are all there, as are the characters, it's the songs that lack. The cast have fantastic voices but are often overpowered by the band, led by Sari Breznau. They are a killer band and all, but once those horns get going the vocals become a mish mash of Charlie Brown's teachers (wa wa wa wa wa). And while I'm not a huge fan of the songs, they do matter in the telling of the story. And you could say that the songs are not why people come to a burlesque, but I would have to disagree. Yes, the flesh is enticing, and the moves are sexy but Can Can shows are more than simply a strip.

The cast is fantastic, however. Keller once again owns Skellington. He's got that tone and patter of the character down and has a great voice to boot. Miranda Antoinette as Jack's beleaguered love interest Sally too has some killer pipes and manages to have some of the few numbers that can be heard. As I said, Pinzon's Zero is delightful as he bounds around the stage and throws in more than a few gravity defying leaps. Tori Spero is on hand as the Mayor of Halloweentown and our narrator for the evening and Spero could lead an audience to hell and back and they'd thank her for it. Sadly, many of her vocals fall victim to that overpowering band. Vocals I know from other shows that bring down the house.

Review: THIS IS HALLOWEEN at The Can Can
Jasmine Jean Sim in This Is Halloween from The Can Can.
Photo credit: Nate Watters

And speaking of bringing down the house, in the previous incarnation I saw, Oogie Boogie was played by a uber-hunky guy in the Oogie Boogie potato sack like costume. We only got to see exactly how hunky at the end of his number when the sack was ripped away. In the current show, the curves are on display from the start as the malevolent one is delectably played by Can Can favorite Jasmine Jean Sim in some truly sensuous outfits. Some may miss Oogie's look but Sim is backed up by Little Oogies in the gunny sack outfits, dancers Pinzon and Hannah Simmons. Plus you would never want to hide Sim in a potato sack. And thank the theater gods, Sim's vocals managed to escape the issues with the sound as she blew the roof off the place and turned Oogie into the queen of all queens.

The show, on the whole, is a winner with its sexy cast and outstanding choreography and costumes. I just wish I could have heard them better and clearer. And it wasn't just me, as I heard people after the show ask each other, "Could you understand them?" And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give The Can Can's "This Is Halloween" an unclear MEH+. For a burlesque show, vocals might not be key. For a musical, they're crucial.

"This Is Halloween" from the Can Can performs at The Triple Door through October 31st. For tickets or information visit them online at www.thecancan.com.



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         Born and raised in Seattle, WA, Jay has been a theater geek for years.  He attends as many shows as he can around the country and loves taking in new exciting... (read more about this author)


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