BWW Review: Catch a Case of the Warm Funnies at The Second City's UNCONVENTIONAL HOLIDAY REVIEW
Even with the weather in Toronto flip-flopping between fall and winter, there are plenty of ways to celebrate the holiday season around the city - and The Second City's joined that list with the UNCONVENTIONAL HOLIDAY REVUE.
Regardless of what or if you celebrate, this year's holiday program features a powerhouse ensemble directed by Connor Thompson. Cast members Andy Assaf, Matt Folliott, Nicole Passmore, Christian Smith, Hannah Spear and Jillian Welsh drive a series of heartwarming and gut busting sketches with the kind of expertise that The Second City is known for.
If you're looking for a new take on classic holiday tropes and stories, there's no shortage. From a table full of picky kids at a family holiday dinner, to a mother (Passmore) introducing her boyfriend (Assaf) to her son (Smith, who makes an incredible 6-year-old) after he interrupts an important chat, there's a genuine warmth in the storytelling even when the more vulgar punchlines come out.
An audition room gets hysterically dark as Spears makes a convincing argument to replace the Dufferin Mall's Santa with Krampus. Both Spears and Welsh show all the politeness of co-worker relationships against Smith's Macedonian-holiday-celebrating staff member, but as with many sketches in this revue, things turn sweetly into a nice message of inclusion.
For audience members who are already tired of the holidays, there are plenty of bits that have nothing to do with the cheer and festivities of the season. A woman (Welsh) deals with a sassy laptop (Folliott) that comes to life and makes its own choices, before the printer (Passmore) and Wi-Fi (Spear) show up to take a toll on her emotional wellbeing too. It's loud and raucous - not unlike a standard family dinner - and is a shining example of the company's ability to take the mundane and make it brand new.
There's a sense of family and community at the centre of most holiday traditions, and The Second City hasn't let go of that theme with this revue. Sometimes the community is The People's Party of Canada at their holiday raffle, with Bernier played by a toned down and extremely effective Assaf who fields hecklers from the crowd; and other times it's in an improv piece where Welsh brings a mother on stage so she can get the full coming out experience - spoiler alert, it's the cutest and sweetest part of the night. There's a warmth to the UNCONVENTIONAL HOLIDAY REVUE that wraps around you like the coziest of ugly Christmas sweaters and sticks with you even once you've left the theatre for the cold streets of downtown Toronto.
The Second City's UNCONVENTIONAL HOLIDAY REVUE runs through January 5 at The Second City Mainstage, 51 Mercer St, Toronto, ON.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit https://www.secondcity.com/shows/toronto/unconventional-holiday-revue/
Photo credit: Paul Aihoshi