Santa has invited friends to his annual holiday cocktail party. Friends like Frosty the Snowman, the Little Drummer Boy, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Tiny Tim Cratchit.
They all become suspects when the jolly old man is murdered in “Who Killed Santa?,” which opens Friday at the Blue Barn Theatre. And the audience will determine the show's ending and help solve the crime.
Playwright Neil Haven of Milwaukee came upon the concept as he cast about for ideas to write an alternative, satirical Christmas show — the kind the Blue Barn stages every year.
“I never imagined it would have staying power,” Haven said from Milwaukee last week, where he's directing the show for the fourth straight year. “People like to come back to see different endings.”
Haven said he also parodied seven familiar Christmas tunes, changing lyrics so that the characters point to each other as the killer.
In Milwaukee, the show is done with a mix of human actors and rod puppets, in the style of “Avenue Q.” At the Blue Barn, director Hughston Walkinshaw gives it a postmodern twist, creating an atmosphere that evokes a television variety show from the late 1950s and early '60s.
That gives actor Nils Haaland, who along with Walkinshaw is a Blue Barn co-founder, the chance to play some famous people on the variety show. Among them are author Truman Capote and French chef Julia Child.
“This is definitely right up the Blue Barn's alley,” Haaland said last week. “It's for adult audiences. You would definitely be on the naughty list after you saw this one...”
Haven said parodying old television Christmas specials “could be funny and certainly fits in. Any element of holiday entertainment that can be skewered is probably a good idea.”
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