The Very Merry Xmas Carol Holiday Adventure Show
), a collaboration between Theatre Horizon and Philly Fringe favorites the Berserker Residents, has plenty in common with all those other Christmas tales. This is partly because during
someone tries to ruin Christmas and then someone else tries to save it. But it's also because characters from other classics make guest appearances, most notably, Rudolph (Justin Jain), Frosty (Dave Johnson), and Scrooge (Bradley Wrenn), who join forces on an Arctic quest to vanquish a holiday tradition-killing villain called simply The Xmas.
So that's about where similarity between TVMXCHAS and any other Christmas experience you're likely to encounter this season ends. The Berserkers - writer Tim Sawicki and performers Johnson, Jain, and Wrenn - with an able assist from Brian McCann as the Narrator, have crafted at Norristown's Centre Theatre an admirably snark-free, family-friendly story that's equally amusing to adults, and blessedly willing to sacrifice narrative for the sake of fun.
Director Alex Torra is a Pig Iron veteran, and TVMXCHAS bears some of that company's physical-theater hallmarks. He charges the exploits with a wide-eyed enthusiasm, our heroes earnestly tromping the ice - its silvery caves and craggy walls borrowed from Snow Miser's The Year Without a Santa Claus ice palace by set designer Lisi Stoessel - and flinging themselves in and out of costumes and characters. Puppets and mimed comic interludes stud the show like the candied bits on a really good fruitcake.
I've missed the Berserker Residents' previous original works (The Jersey Devil, The Giant Squid, and The Annihilation Point), but you can bet I won't miss another one, particularly if it's marked by the kind of gleeful professionalism on display here.
Jain's solo reindeer dance, to Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," complete with nods to the original video's choreography, may be silly, but it's also skillful. Punch lines, such as Wrenn's Lord Candy Cane offering up his army of after-dinner mints to the Christmas-saving cause - "They're small, but curiously strong" - hit their marks with good cheer, now groans. In fact, there's so much cheer abroad that audience participation never feels like conscription, but rather a community effort.
There are lots of Christmas Carols out there to choose from, and that's just fine. But when you're ready for a remix, this Horizon/Berserker mashup is a completely different tune, and, one hopes, the start of a new tradition.
Presented by Theatre Horizon and the Berserker Residents through Dec. 31 at Centre Theatre, 208 DeKalb St., Norristown. Tickets: $21-$27. Information: 610-283-2230 or www.Theatre Horizon.org