Christmas with the Crawfords proves that being a Hollywood Star in the 40s could be quite a drag. Bruka Theatre celebrates the holiday season with a cast of Hollywood’s biggest celebrities of the 1940s.
~Review by Dana Nöllsch Photos by Mary Bennett and Nancy Vazquez~
Christmas with the Crawfords is filled with bigger-than-life Hollywood stars from the 50s showcasing ego with a bit of song and dance. The story centers around the family life of Joan Crawford as she struggles with a failing career as well as the challenge of raising four children.
Joan Crawford comes up with a plan. She invites Hedda Hopper to do a live radio program with her and her children on Christmas Eve. This sounded like a good idea at the time… but. Much to Crawford’s dismay, many visitors interrupt her radio show. As the night moves on, she feels like she is losing control.
With visitors like The Andrews sisters, Mae West, Judy Garland, Carmen Miranda, and others interrupting the radio program, Joan Crawford’s temper rises. Her plan certainly is going differently than she wanted it to. Unfazed by the frequent unplanned visitors, Hedda Hopper gives each of them a moment in the spotlight.
There are many subtle and not-so-subtle references to the book and movie Mommy Dearest, written by Joan Crawford’s daughter, Christina. Christina’s tell-all book about the private family life of the Crawfords raised quite a controversy at the time. Christmas with the Crawfords plays it for laughs brilliantly.
Each of these actors brings comedic magic to the stage as they portray these iconic characters. Christmas with the Crawfords is a laugh riot thanks to these talented actors as they bring this fast-paced story to their audience.
Bradford Ka’ai’ai plays Joan Crawford with a delightfully insane bite.
Riley Mckinney Plays Christina Crawford with an innocent and yet manipulative sharpness.
Jessey Richards plays Christopher Crawford with a childlike naivete.
Kaymin Sambona plays the spoiled and capricious Baby Jane Hudson with just a hint of anger.
Brian Hanson captures the independence and outspokenness that Katherine Hepburn was known for.
Dylan Shirey, Ryan Corrigan, and Kaymin Sambona bring the magic the Andrew Sisters were known for to the stage.
The radio gossip columnist Hedda Hopper is played to perfection by Stephan Moore.
Kelsey Mato‘s portrayal of Judy Garland is uncanny and spot-on with a comedic edge.
The silent film actress Gloria Swanson is played by Kell Kittel. Swanson receives an angry shot from Crawford, and Kittel plays the interaction to perfection.
John Paul Rivard Plays Mae West with the lusty, erotic flair West was known for.
What can I say about John Wade? He never fails to entertain; like Carmen Miranda, he certainly brings the produce.
Dylan Shirey brings the power that Ethel Merman was known for to the stage.
The Bottom Line
A laugh riot in Drag, Christmas with the Crawfords will absolutely make you feel better about your family’s Christmas.
Bruka Theatre is known for its Christmas Extravaganze, The Buttcracker, but this year is not a Buttcracker year. Christmas with the Crawfords is a fabulous choice for the holiday show, and I have no doubt that you will agree with me.
CHRISTMAS WITH THE CRAWFORDS
Created by Richard Winchester and Written by Mark Sargent
JOAN CRAWFORD: BRADFORD KA’AI’AI
CHRISTINA CRAWFORD: RILEY MCKINNEY
CHRISTOPHER CRAWFORD: JESSEY RICHARDS
BABY JANE HUDSON: KAYMIN SAMBONA
KATHERINE HEPBURN: BRIAN DAVID HANSON
MAXINE ANDREWS: DYLAN SHIREY
LAVERNE ANDREWS: RYAN CORRIGAN
PATTY ANDREWS: KAYMINE SAMBONA
HEDDA HOPPER: STEPHAN MOORE
JUDY GARLAND: KELSEY MATO
GLORIA SWANSON: KELL KITTEL
MAE WEST: JOHN PAUL RIVARD
CARMEN MIRANDA: JOHN WADE
ETHEL MERMAN: DYLAN SHIREY
CREATIVES & CREW
PRODUCER/DIRECTOR: MARY BENNETT
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: ROSE SAMBONA
STAGE MANAGER: KAITLYNN COOPER
COSTUMES: DEBORAH MORRISON
WIG DESIGN: JOHN PAUL RIVARD
CHOREOGRAPHY: AMY GINDER
SET DESIGN: LEWIS ZAUMEYER
SOUND OPERATION & LIGHTING DESIGN: DAVID SIMPSON
December 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15, 16, 20, 21, 22 @ 7:30 PM
Sunday Matinees: December 10 & 17 @ 2 PM
99 N. Virginia St, Reno 775.323.3221 www.bruka.org
RESERVATIONS: In person or by phone through the Brüka Box Office (775) 323-3221.