Paula Killen's Music Kills a Memory features a simultaneous harmony medley of "Superstar" and "Piece of My Heart"—a feat relying on the melodies sharing the same chord progression. After Dee Snider discovered similar structural parallels existing in certain traditional Christmas anthems and his own hit-making compositions for the 1980s rock band Twisted Sister—well, what could be more logical than a nostalgic mash-up combining both musical genres?
The skinnier-than-a-D-string plot revolves around a band called Daisy Cutter—misspelled "Daisy Cuter" to the chagrin of its members—whom success has eluded for too long. "Other bands have a following—yours has a leaving!" declares the club owner, who gives them until Christmas eve to attract some customers. At the urging of burnt-out ex-rocker Scratch, lead singer D.D. calls upon his belief in a talisman bestowed on him by Ozzy Osborne to orchestrate himself and his reluctant bandmates a contract with the most ruthless A&R agent of them all: Lucifer himself.
Then the fun begins: No sooner do the eternally-damned quartet strike up their signature rendition of "Can't Stop Rock and Roll" than they suddenly find themselves playing "Rest You Merry, Gentlemen." Then "Raise Some Hell" mysteriously segues into "Silver Bells." These new hybrid arrangements meet with popular recognition, but D.D. refuses to dilute his art's fundamentally satanic ethos—indeed, the climax of the evening's score is an instrumental duel between "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "Come All Ye Faithful" ( with reinforcements from "Jingle Bells"—go on, sing it and see for yourself ). This theological ambivalence is soon resolved by the band's dyslexic legacy, however, with everyone emerging the wiser for their experience.
Composer Snider appears onstage in the dual roles of the Narrator and an exorcist forced to switch liturgical sides, leading an exuberant young cast whom he assures us all play their own instruments. A subplot involving the Cutter drummer's unspoken crush on the club boss-lady provides opportunities for a quiet ballad ( and send-up of tutu-fantasy dream sequences ), as does the pep-talk prompted by D.D.'s existential crisis—both sung with steely sweetness by Keely Vasquez. The 90-minute text could still use some tweaking to make every word count, but a script needing only one rewrite and an ensemble needing only to lose their big-budget press-night jitters is already well on its way to becoming a welcome compromise in the sugar vs. snark holiday entertainment wars.
Playwright: book, music and lyrics by Dee Snider. At: Broadway In Chicago at the Broadway Playhouse, 175 E. Chestnut St. Tickets: 800-775-2000; www.broadwayinchicago.com; $30-$90. Runs through: Jan. 4 .