The Holiday Guys in Happy Merry Hanu-Mas
You'd have to be a total Scrooge not to adore song-and-dance-men Marc Kudisch and Jeffry Denman's irreverent holiday revue.
Seriously. I can't imagine anyone sitting at the York Theatre Company with their arms folded for longer than five seconds before the toe-tapping, ivory-tickling, string-strumming, bongo-pounding, carol-singing, tallis-wearing, schmaltz-ladling duo of "Holiday Guys" Marc Kudisch and Jeffry Denman wins them over.
The mirth in revue's the first five seconds sustains itself for a remarkably consistent 85 minutes, not counting encores. The Holiday Guys may be jokesters, but they're not kidding around.
Nor would you expect them to, considering their pedigree. Kudisch (9 to 5) is a three-time Tony Award nominated Jewish beefcake (sorry to objectify him so soon in this review, but the man looks good in Chanukah-themed pajamas). Denman (White Christmas), a similarly-decorated Broadway song-and-dance man, plays the part of the nattily-dressed WASP to the hilt (and pocket square). Together, the duo play off each other with warmth, wit and infectious energy as they skip merrily through their takes on holiday classics like "Holly Jolly Christmas," "Do You Hear What I Hear," and, yes, "Lonely Jew on Christmas." (Jews, you won't be lonely here. Instead, you'll feel a little guilty for leaving your tefillin at home.)
The pair spin the warmly familiar easily, allowing you to enjoy the core material while appreciating the new twists brought to it, including but not limited to: inventive kazoo arrangements, whimsical sound effects and special guest readings of "'Twas The Night Before Christmas." (In my case, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy's Carson Kressley in very sparkly shoes). It is schtick in the grandest tradition of Vaudeville and the Borscht Belt, entertainment in the spirit of Kelly and Astaire--a delightful tap number that explodes in the middle of the show makes you realize how seldom you see a good tap number up close these days.In this age of LCD-lit entertainment, it is wonderful to be reminded that nothing beats the raw power of a big personality giving it up for the audience. The Holiday Guys has that personality times two, plus that of guests like Kressley (special guests advertised also include Tyne Daly, Michael Riedel and John Weidman) and audience members shouting out the date of, say, next year's Chanukah (it starts November 27th, this Jew learned). Three band members in the background provide musical and comedic backup while supporting Kudisch's Snuggie and Denman's legs, which are characters unto themselves.
A note on The York Theater: The sound is good. The entire show could consist entirely of Kudisch strumming the guitar and people would get their money's worth based on sound quality alone. I don't typically notice such things, but in this case "man is the sound good" was the first note I wrote.
Another from my notes: "GOODNESS AND LIGHT," words pulled from the duo's version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and a message underlined several times throughout the show. It's all the "The Holiday Guys'' want to give you this season. Let them.