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Bits & Bytes
Hanky Panky Holidaze at Crepe, Gifts Of The Magi at ArtsWest
by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

As Seattle starts the final weekend countdown to Christmas, Emerald City stages are brimming over with "final" performances of Yuletide programming. Many groups - PNB and its Nutcracker, Intiman and Black Nativity, Taproot with The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society's Production of "A Christmas Carol" (this year's winner for longest title of the season), ACT and its Christmas Carol - will continue performances for a few days after Christmas, but many shows will shutter this weekend. Bits&Bytes recaps the "last chance" programming on the boards for this weekend. Read on:

Hanky Panky Holidaze, the "naughty but nice" cabaret revue at the Crepe de Paris in downtown Seattle, ends its 2007 holiday run with four final performances through Monday night, Christmas Eve. The 90-minute show is brimming with good parodies, some terrific straight material and some especially sharp satire. It's another hit for the Cabaret At The Crepe series.

Writer/director Bob De Dea ("a known felon," according to the cast) built the show with the input of the talented three woman cast but is not appearing in this year's Christmas cabaret revue. His program notes of growing up Catholic add a nice dimension to the show. Another note, thanking "our parents who, try as they might, couldn't help but warp us a little," is another bright spot.

The show itself is a wild and wacky mixture of obvious holiday spoofs - Cole Porter's "I've Got You Under My Skin" becomes "I've Got You Under My Tree" - with some unusual topics - penile dysfunction and VD among them. The jokes come fast and furious, and most of them hit the audience with a sharp whack. The show flirts, somewhat dangerously, with "mature topics" but never errs on the side of too much. "It was a little more risqué than I expected," one CEO (hosting a 30-person company office party outing) confided at the end of the wild and wacky evening, and then enthused, "but I loved it."

Joanne Klein, Angie Louise and Elizabeth Nestlerode provide the entertainment for the evening. Late in Act Two, the show quiets down for three solos that allow the talented women to shine.

Klein gets a chance to change the mood with a riveting "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" - a musical highlight of the evening. (The Frank Loesser classic, interestingly, is also a highlight of the Seattle Men's Chorus' Home For The Holidays, playing its final four concerts at Benaroya Hall this weekend.)

Nestlerode has a pleasant outing with "Christmas Lullaby," and Louise shines in her solo with her own original composition, "Come Around Again."

Mad and madcap merriment rules for most of the evening. Obvious parodies dominate: "'Twas the night before Christmas and, us being Jews, we had nothing to do&" opens one sequence. "Did you hear about the priest, the rabbi and the fruitcake who walk into a bar&?" goes another. Political correctness is not on the agenda for the Hanky Panky evening.

The fun-fun-fun show is offered as part of a dinner and theater package or on a "show only" basis when seating is available. Complete details and reservations at 623-4111,

The Cabaret At The Crepe series hosts an encore of Nightclub Gentlemen for New Year's Eve. Advance reservations are a must.

A mini-musical with an off-Broadway history takes the focus at ArtsWest for the group's annual holiday show. The West Seattle troupe had a long, long run with Voices Of Christmas, but changed programming this year. The Gifts Of The Magi, adapted from two short, short stories by O. Henry, is a pleasant holiday-themed musical without any real pizzazz. The best songs go to minor characters or to minor dramatic moments - a sparkling vaudeville turn with "Greed" is one musical highlight - but has little to do with the show or its main characters.

Jessica Skerritt shines as Della, the young bride who faces Christmas with no money to buy a gift for her beloved husband. Alas, the musical gives her little to do except look lovely - which she does constantly. John W. Bartley, as the handsome newlywed husband, has better musical opportunities, but again, the composers limit the character (and the show) with generic songs.

John Lutyens and Trish LaGrua shine as all the supporting players - one especially clever element of the musical is the creation of City Him and City Her, giving these two ArtsWest regulars a chance to walk away with the production in dozens of vivid supporting roles.

The whole cast works hard, and the show is a enjoyable trifle for holiday audiences. It continues with final performances through Sunday. Details at 938-0339.

The rest of the ArtsWest season, starting with The Retreat From Moscow, running January 9 - February 2, looks like a winner. GLBT audiences should mark the May/June run of I Am My Own Wife, a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize Award Winning Best Play, as a "must."

Music Of Remembrance sent along a "gentle reminder" that their CD library or tickets to future concerts would make idea holiday gifts for last minute shoppers. Devoted to preserving "the precious musical legacy that survived the Holocaust," MOR has several CDs worth checking out.

A quick call to MOR might solve last-minute holiday shopping problems.

"America's Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet" returns to Seattle for a pair of performances at the Triple Door tonight, December 21. The four men known as The Kinsey Sicks encore Oh Vey! In A Manager, their "global effort to stamp out holiday cheer." Two performances, at 7 and 10 p.m., should give Seattle fans a chance to kick off the pre-Christmas weekend in comic style.

A two-week run in New York opened the tour, and appearances in Los Angeles, Seattle and "home" in San Francisco complete the outing.

Tickets and information at 838-4333.

As Christmas 2007 and New Year 2008 wind their way into history, it's great to know that spring is (almost) right around the corner. The 2008 Northwest Flower & Garden Show has just announced its dates - February 20-24 at the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle.

See ya there.

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