In this festive time of year, we all have our own ways of commemorating the spirit of the season. Whether you’re a devotee of the Rankin-Bass claymation classics, you can pinpoint every Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye bloop in White Christmas (from your 1,001 viewings of the film), or you get a bit misty every time a bell rings, there will always be something special for you and your loved ones that makes us “all act a little nicer . . . smile a little easier . . . cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be!” For some, nothing says the holidays like a certain 1988 action movie starring Bruce Willis as an off-duty copy fighting against a West German Alan Rickman (with a British dialect) who is intent on stealing millions of dollars from a Japanese-run company during its holiday party. While the debate rages on as to whether Die Hard actually constitutes a Christmas movie, there is absolutely no doubt that Theatre Unleashed’s West Coast premiere of A Very Die Hard Christmas is the merriest and most fantastically hysterical way to ring in the holidays this year!
Written by playwright Josh Carson in an attempt to end the long-standing dispute over Die Hard‘s holiday cred, A Very Die Hard Christmas parodies the fan-favorite film and infuses it with every identifiable pop culture holiday reference imaginable . . . along with enough puppets, blood, and audience participation to leave you feeling as jolly as Kris Kringle! When this playful romp through a (not-so-great) day in the life of off-duty cop John McClane is narrated by none other than Rankin-Bass’ Sam the Snowman (who gave a truly inspired performance in the role of Sgt. Al Powell), audiences will quickly understand that this is not your ordinary holiday pageant. While this zany evening of fun still follows the overall story structure of Die Hard, the addition of musical parodies of well-known holiday tunes (i.e., “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” The Muppets’ “Scrooge,” etc.) and appearances by memorable characters like Hermey the Elf, the Grinch, Jimmy Stewart (a la George Bailey), and Yukon Cornelius will make you squeal with delight at each mention. Plus, loyal Die Hard fans will be pleased to note that iconic moments from the film have made their way into the show, whether they be slow-motion falls from the top of a building or more intimate moments with a lighter in an air vent.
When it comes to the cast, I have said it before and will reiterate – the cast of players that Theatre Unleashed has amassed never ceases to amaze and entertain, and director Gregory Crafts skillfully guides this talented troupe through a journey of hilarity, action, and holiday cheer. Led by the extraordinarily charismatic Wade Wilson (Chi-Raq, Livin Da Dream) as McClane, the entire ensemble bands together for a non-stop rollercoaster of off-the-wall characters, high-intensity gun battles, and gleefully humorous holiday ballads. Wilson shines in the lead role with a calm and collected ease, while also maintaining the comedic energy and high stakes of the action thriller. Likewise, returning TU player David Foy Bauer (Cake, Passages) is a sheer delight as baddie Hans Gruber, bringing a disarming charm to the character, as well as fantastic comedic timing and a great voice. The entire ensemble is truly to be commended, with special mentions made of Sean Fitzgerald (Ligature Marks) and Adam Meredith (Steve Jobs); each gave phenomenally hilarious performances in a variety of roles throughout the show.
There is no doubt that this is a busy time of year, with holiday shopping, travel plans, and day-to-day stresses weighing on each of us. While that may be the case, it’s important for us to remember the true spirit of the holidays and to enjoy an evening of laughter and holiday fun with family and friends. Gather your friends (whether they agree with you as to Die Hard being a Christmas movie or not) and go and see A Very Die Hard Christmas! The show will run on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays through December 19th at 8 p.m. at The Belfry Stage in North Hollywood. Tickets are $20 each and are available online or at the door. Patrons may also “Pay What You Want” for tickets with a $5 donation to the Camp Del Corazon. Please note that the theatre is located upstairs, and, unfortunately, it is not wheelchair accessible. Be sure to visit the Theatre Unleashed website for further details.