By Dee Snider. Directed by Adam John Hunter. Until Jan. 3 at the Winter Garden Theatre, 189 Yonge St. 1-855-622-ARTS.
I’m dreaming of a Whitesnake Christmas.
That’s what I was singing after I left the Winter Garden Theatre, where Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale is playing through Jan. 3, and if you’ve got one drop of heavy metal blood coursing through your veins, I guarantee you’ll feel the same way.
Let me be perfectly honest and tell you that I wasn’t looking forward to this show. The mash-up isn’t my favourite art form and the thought of Snider, the Twisted Sister frontman, larking around through Yuletide material didn’t exactly flip the dial on my Peace-on-Earth-Goodwill-Toward-Men Meter.
But I was wrong. Show up in the right spirit and you’ll have a terrific time. And why not? It’s Rock of Ages meets A Christmas Carol, with just enough of The Exorcist tossed in to keep it from being too G-rated.
From the minute Snider confidently strides onto the stage and starts narrating his tale with meth-head enthusiasm, you’re going to be on side. A lifetime the entertainment business has taught him how to work a crowd and he does it with skill, but with a surprising freshness. This isn’t some aging rocker just adding more bucks to his retirement fund. He loves what he’s doing.
There is a story, believe it or not, about a heavy metal bar band called Daïsy Cütter that is down to being the back-room act at a club where an obnoxious electronic DJ calls the shots.
But they still have dreams and, driven by their egomaniacal lead singer, D.D. Snutz, they sign a pact with Satan to give up their souls in exchange for stardom. Once it’s done however, they suddenly find themselves unable to stop singing Christmas songs.
Sounds crazy, but if you’ve never heard “We’re Not Gonna Take It” melt into “O Come All Ye Faithful,” you’re in for a treat. And the club’s audiences love it, too. Suddenly the stardom that’s eluded the band forever comes around and good ol’ Journey turns into “Journey of the Magi.”
I won’t tell you how it resolves because you probably wouldn’t believe me, but the finale, with Beth Kates’ lighting playing every variation on red and green imaginable, while Suzette Guilot-Snider’s hilarious costumes marry Spandex with Santa, is a real mindblower.
And when Snider kicks into the classic holiday song he penned, “The Magic of Christmas Day,” all is right with the world.
The cast provide lots of the fun. Peter Deiwick’s D.D. Snutz is a hilarious riff on the Stacey Jaxx he created in Rock of Ages, while Kevin Fox and Sean Kelly are hysterical as two dudes who put the heavy in heavy metal, with a totally off-the-wall and charming Spencer Robson playing the young drummer, Ralph.
On the distaff side, Taylor Dayne slinks around in fine Kathleen Turner style as the cougar club owner and when she sings it’s as warm and smokily inviting as chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Lexi Soha and Tiera Watts have enough of a sense of fun to rise above the sex-candy costumes they wear throughout, adding new meaning to “Ho, ho, ho.”
Mark Camilleri at the keyboard keeps those power chords throbbing, Shannon Lewis’s choreography is true to the period and Adam John Hunter’s direction, while not exactly tight, keeps it all moving rapidly.
Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale isn’t the show of your dreams, unless you ate a large Hawaiian pizza before you went to sleep, but it is a lot of fun at a time of year when we all could use some more.
Rock on, dudes. And Happy New Year.