This is about the time of year when the rampant commercialism, incessant jingling bells and treacly carols can have many looking for an antidote to all this so-called Christmas cheer.
Rust Belt Theater Company is serving up an Absinthe-and-Vicodin-laced cocktail to do just that.
Robert Dennick Joki's "How the Drag Queen Stole Christmas" is back for its eighth year total and its second year at the Calvin Center. Saturday was my first time seeing it since 2010, and while Joki has tinkered with the show extensively since then, it remains trashy, profane fun for those willing to accept some very non-traditional holiday entertainment.
The framework of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is there, but the Scrooge of this story is a Christmas-hating drag queen named Starrlet O'Hara (Joki). After firing a new dancer Minnie (Bernadette Lim) on Christmas Eve and having two others - Minaj (Jo Ellen Jacob) and Buffy (Nicole Zayas) - walk out in support, Starrlet goes on a pill-and-alcohol bender that leads to her being visited by her conjoined twin sister Starina (Beth Farrow) and the ghosts of Christmas Past (Lynn Sabeh), Present (Marisa Zamary) and Future (Alyssa Connolly).
The ghosts are all pop culture figures - two living, one dead - and it's impossible to talk about the performances and the songs they sing without revealing their identities.
WHAT: Rust Belt Theater Company - "How the Drag Queen Stole Christmas"
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and 8 p.m. and midnight Saturday
WHERE: Calvin Center, 755 Mahoning Ave., Youngstown
HOW MUCH: $15 adults and $10 students and senior citizens. For reservations or more information, call or text 330-507-2358.
So, for those who think anything resembling a spoiler is a mortal sin, know that this a Christmas show with profanity, sex jokes and songs about dead celebrities. If any of those things offend you, there are plenty of more traditional options available.
For those who don't mind some mild spoilers, grab a drink and keep reading.
Sabeh's Marilyn Monroe (Christmas Past) and Connolly's Lady Gaga (Christmas Future) have been included in the past, although Connolly's dead-on Gaga routine now includes songs from her new album. But Zamary is a scene-stealer as a butter-lovin' Paula Deen on a song I'll call "Life Is a Recipe" (in addition to not believing in reverence, Rust Belt doesn't believe in programs). She's hilarious.
And it's almost freaky how much Terri MacSkimming looks like Miley Cyrus, another newcomer to the show. But except for licking a hammer nonstop, the script doesn't give her much to do.
Lim shines on the opening number "Here in Youngstown" ("Where the bodies are never found ..."), and Zayas and Sabeh are great bantering back and forth as Buffy and Minaj.
Joki has been playing Starrlet for eight years, and the character is a perfect showcase for his wicked wit and that wonderful voice.
To accommodate the crowds that the show attracts, "Drag Queen" is staged in the gymnasium at the Calvin Center. It's a necessary but less-than-optimal move. The wireless microphones the cast members wear do a decent job of projecting sound, but at times I thought one of the Christmas ghosts should have been "Baby Jessica" McClure because some of the dialogue had a hollow, echo-y sound as if being delivered from the bottom of a well.
A few jokes get muffled as a result, but this show has some to spare.
After all, how can you not love a musical with homeless drag queen in red dress with a mop of ginger curls who goes by the name Little Orphan Tranny?