With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Hell in a Handbag Productions is back with their annual holiday showcase. Gracing the stage of Mary’s Attic in Andersonville, a world premiere debut, Snowgirls The Musical, a sardonic homage to the camp classic movie Showgirls. Clearly a fan of the original source material, book writer Derek Van Barham blended pieces of the original story, written by Joe Eszterhaus for a reported staggering $2 million dollars at the time, and peppered in several layers of all things North Pole. Just a quick refresher on the original flick to those who may have, or chosen to have, forgotten. This September 1995 erotic drama was Director Paul Verhoeven’s vision, simultaneously marking the beginning and the ending of the feature film career of former Saved by the Bell actress Elizabeth Berkley. Awarded Worst Film of the Year by The Stinkers Bad Movie Awards as well as holding the dubious distinction of winning 10 out of 10 Worst Movie of the Year Razzies Awards including Worst Actress, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst Supporting Actress, Worst Original Song…..you get the picture. Fast forward twenty some years and over 1,000 VH1 rebroadcastings later and Showgirls has found new life as a Gay Camp Classic. Do you need to see the original stinker to follow this Christmastime tribute? Of course not, but it certainly helps.
This show centered on dancer Snomi Malone (Harper Leander) a bad girl gone, well….badder, with the lofty ambitions of being a professional dancer. Hitchhiking her way to the North Pole on the back of a flying reindeer, Snomi dreamed of being a part of Santa’s big show. She is quickly robbed of both her suitcase and her dream. Snomi is recruited by Strip Club owner Rudolph (Max McKune) and quickly put to work on the pole. It’s not long before Leander is recreating the infamous “lick the stripper pole” scene, only morphed here into a site gag with a decidedly unsexy Christmas Story twist. Yes, her tongue gets stuck to the metal pole played entirely for laughs. With droll line delivery like the often repeated “I’m a dancer, not a whore” Leander’s Snomi mimicked Berkley’s limited range as Nomi to a tee.
While this show has numerous campy delights, none shine brighter or more resiliently than resident bad girl and star of the show, Ice Crystal (Sydney Genco). Luminous, self-centered, vain and oh so delicious, Genco doesn’t just pay tribute to Gina Gershon, she all but channels her. “Christmas is coming and so am I” purrs this ferocious femme fatal, selling every song David Cerda, Scott Lamberty and Jeff Thomson tossed her way. From her numerous pronunciations of “daaaaaaaarlin’s” to her vampy, trampy costumes, designed with verve by Kate Setzer Kamphausen, Genco owns the stage each time she steps out. I know Hell in a Handbag productions aren’t taken seriously during Awards Season, however Genco has more than earned her place upon the eventual nominees list. Best category this time “daaaaaaarlin!” The splashing eggnog as “holy water” in the face of Snomi scene truly left me gasping for air from fits of outrageous laughter.
Of course the double entendres come fast and furious. Multiple “hung stocking” and “magic fairy dust” substituting for cocaine cracks abound. The North Pole substitutes for Las Vegas quite organically and there are as many raunchy jokes on display as there are pelvic thrusts. To anyone who has seen the film, all the major pieces of choreography has been painstakingly reproduced by Choreographer and Director Jon Martinez. The desperate arm reaching, the alluring, seductive finger grabs, the rapid-fire arm double cross in front of faces, and the on-the-ground, intensive, mid-air pelvic thrusts, all the while show Dance Captain Gay (Marissa Williams) and Herbie (Patrick Stengle) were shouting alongside the performers. Mrs. Claus (Erin Daly) even got in on the act, cast as the strip club’s resident comedian. When talking about the Christmas ditty “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” she quickly quipped that song is “about my sister.” Low rent jokes about Santa’s impotence quickly followed. Shakespeare this is not, but it is not supposed to be by design.
Thankfully dropped from the original in this reboot, the brutal gang rape, sexual assault subplot, happily replaced with fashion designer Jolly’s (Brittani Yawn) obsession with Santa Claus (Terry McCarthy). Whether he is real or not became irrelevant when she discovered “Santa’s in the pocket of shopping malls and the Hallmark Channel.” Trust me, nothing is off limits in this, just under 2 hour, production. As Snowmi pulled out her candy cane shank early on, we quickly realized the only thing to take seriously is how quickly to get a cocktail refill from the bar. Truly the only thing noticeably missing from the original in this tribute was the obsession Berkley’s character had for constantly nibbling potato chips. However as soon as her contemporary stepped out on stage in the nearly perfectly matching lavender wrap sweater, all was forgiven and forgotten. I can nibble my own damn chips.
For any fan of the original film Showgirls, Snowgirls the Musical will be a holiday themed hoot. I laughed loudly and often, always a good sign. God bless Ms. Sydney Genco. Her Ice Crystal Conners is simply put, my spirit animal. Grab a friend, grab a drink and sit back for two hours of camp-tastic fun. Not of morsel of sappy sentiment in sight, I promise. Hell in a Handbang has outdone themselves with this one. Here is hoping Snowgirls itself becomes an annual Andersonville holiday tradition. They should sign Genco while they still can.
Snowgirls the Musical is now playing at Mary’s Attic in Andersonville thought December 30, 2018