The Austin Chronicle

https://www.austinchronicle.com/arts/2005-12-23/321219/

Arts Review

Reviewed by Patti Hadad, December 23, 2005, Arts

A Christmas Carol Roasting on an Open Fire

The Vortex, through Jan. 7

"Dear Mr. Kris Kringle,

All I want for Christmas this year is a Hollywood legend posable action set so that I can do all the voices and play Christmas Carol-pretend forever and ever, amen."

That's how a young Rob Nash's letter to Santa might have read, but last year he made that wish come true himself with his version of the mother of all yuletide stories, A Christmas Carol Roasting on an Open Fire. Multiple-character solo acts are Nash's specialty, and for his 15th such show, he's lit a fire under Dickens' perennial fable like Austin's problem child with a grill. He's given the role of Scrooge to the quintessential bitch Bette Davis and cast other silver screen queens in the majority of the story's male roles while male movie stars portray the female characters. Every figure is an icon and every moment a cinematic allusion, as Nash spikes Dickens' holiday punch with famous movie quotes, such as Davis' "fasten your seat belts" line when the clock strikes or Humphrey Bogart's "hill of beans" speech from Casablanca delivered to Scrooge as the jilted Belle. The humor stems from the black-and-white contrast between a Christmas classic and classic motion pictures. And Nash pulls it off so smoothly, it seems as though it was Dickens' intention all along to have Joan Crawford as Marley Dearest or Mae West as Scrooge's nephew.

Nash first enchanted audiences with the show last December, but he's since refined the script and his impressions of the show's many celebrities. Most of the portrayals are recognizable, but during the show many younger audience members had to refer to their programs, which conveniently lists the characters with the corresponding bigwigs. Someone like me, who may have seen about a third of the 24 films that Nash references, is not left in the dark, especially considering that not all of the actors are of the 1930s era; for instance, Nash puts spitfire diva Megan Mullally of Will and Grace fame in the shoes of the Ghost of Christmas Future. It's much more pleasant when you try to guess who's up next and shake your head at the cleverness.

Sporting a sweater, jeans, and Vans, Nash is devoid of red-carpet wear. Nevertheless, the moment he opens his mouth into a drawl as the Ghost of Christmas Past and tells Scrooge that his lip is tremblin,' his everyday clothing melts into Vivian Leigh's barbecue dress from Gone With the Wind. The fast pace of the show and particularly of Nash's switches between characters, as when he morphs from Moe to Larry to Curly and back to Moe again, intensifies the sense of madcap revelry.

No matter who's playing Scrooge, the old miser's line to Marley's ghost that he "may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato" still produces a laugh. But to hear it said with Davis sass while Nash lifts up his arm and gestures as if his fingers were covered with wet nail polish is like watching a restoration of All About Christmas Eve.

Copyright © 2019 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.

The Austin Chronicle

https://www.austinchronicle.com/arts/2005-12-23/321219/

Arts Review

Reviewed by Patti Hadad, December 23, 2005, Arts

A Christmas Carol Roasting on an Open Fire

The Vortex, through Jan. 7

"Dear Mr. Kris Kringle,

All I want for Christmas this year is a Hollywood legend posable action set so that I can do all the voices and play Christmas Carol-pretend forever and ever, amen."

That's how a young Rob Nash's letter to Santa might have read, but last year he made that wish come true himself with his version of the mother of all yuletide stories, A Christmas Carol Roasting on an Open Fire. Multiple-character solo acts are Nash's specialty, and for his 15th such show, he's lit a fire under Dickens' perennial fable like Austin's problem child with a grill. He's given the role of Scrooge to the quintessential bitch Bette Davis and cast other silver screen queens in the majority of the story's male roles while male movie stars portray the female characters. Every figure is an icon and every moment a cinematic allusion, as Nash spikes Dickens' holiday punch with famous movie quotes, such as Davis' "fasten your seat belts" line when the clock strikes or Humphrey Bogart's "hill of beans" speech from Casablanca delivered to Scrooge as the jilted Belle. The humor stems from the black-and-white contrast between a Christmas classic and classic motion pictures. And Nash pulls it off so smoothly, it seems as though it was Dickens' intention all along to have Joan Crawford as Marley Dearest or Mae West as Scrooge's nephew.

Nash first enchanted audiences with the show last December, but he's since refined the script and his impressions of the show's many celebrities. Most of the portrayals are recognizable, but during the show many younger audience members had to refer to their programs, which conveniently lists the characters with the corresponding bigwigs. Someone like me, who may have seen about a third of the 24 films that Nash references, is not left in the dark, especially considering that not all of the actors are of the 1930s era; for instance, Nash puts spitfire diva Megan Mullally of Will and Grace fame in the shoes of the Ghost of Christmas Future. It's much more pleasant when you try to guess who's up next and shake your head at the cleverness.

Sporting a sweater, jeans, and Vans, Nash is devoid of red-carpet wear. Nevertheless, the moment he opens his mouth into a drawl as the Ghost of Christmas Past and tells Scrooge that his lip is tremblin,' his everyday clothing melts into Vivian Leigh's barbecue dress from Gone With the Wind. The fast pace of the show and particularly of Nash's switches between characters, as when he morphs from Moe to Larry to Curly and back to Moe again, intensifies the sense of madcap revelry.

No matter who's playing Scrooge, the old miser's line to Marley's ghost that he "may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato" still produces a laugh. But to hear it said with Davis sass while Nash lifts up his arm and gestures as if his fingers were covered with wet nail polish is like watching a restoration of All About Christmas Eve.

Copyright © 2019 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle