Have a Holy Rollin' Christmas!

What a wild, interesting, and exhausting ride its been! Jesus & Johnny Appleweed's Holy Rollin' Family Christmas has closed. Jesus and Johnny have left the building.

Though it was a long road pockmarked by several crises, we pulled it off! Believe me, the "magic of theatre" is real. We didn't have huge houses, but the reviews were great and audiences really seemed to enjoy it.

Well, those who didn't walk out. I mean, if folks don't walk out once in a while, can we really call our company "the Bad Boy of Musical Theatre"?

I'll admit that this truly odd musical I wrote is more confrontational and challenging for the audience than I totally realized. (The same was true of Johnny Appleweed.) I think working on the show for almost three years made some of the more freaky stuff seem less freaky to me. I was defreaksatized. After all, once the show's story gets going, the first character we meet is a heterosexual cross-dresser who's in a relationship with a blowup doll, and they regularly smoke pot together. And even though there are no "four-letter words" in Act I, the dialogue is still pretty explicit about body parts and sexuality -- though in a very goofy context.

I honestly didn't set out to shock or offend -- I mostly just wanted to make people laugh -- but I think my show works a lot like Sondheim's Anyone Can Whistle, satirizing the audience's actual beliefs (and their misconceptions) perhaps a bit too fiercely, a bit too personally, including some beliefs not everyone is comfortable laughing at. Watching the show now, I realize that almost every plot point is about a topic that still makes a lot of people uncomfortable, the things adults used to whisper about in polite company when I was a kid.

Still, as New Line shows go, this one is fairly tame. And this show is what it is. I wouldn't change a thing about it. (High Fidelity reference!) It might not be some folks' particular cup o' tea, but a lot of people loved it. Just look at some of the review quotes...
“What if Seth Rogen, Charles Dickens, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Cheech and Chong, Christopher Hitchens, Hunter S. Thompson, and John Waters decided to have a baby?” – KDHX

"A pot-laced, Dickensian, Cheech & Chong-esque holiday spoof that is reminiscent of when Saturday Night Live was in its heyday." – BroadwayWorld

“Surreal nostalgic fun… a hilarious and upbeat musical for mature audiences.” – The Riverfront Times

“A wacky, if pungent, new look... a snarky (and oddly charming) holiday event.” – TalkinBroadway

"A fun-filled lampoon of Christianity, middle America and the straight-laced culture of the 1950s." – Ladue News

“If you like crass humor, and especially stoner jokes, this show should be a fun ‘alternative’ holiday production.” – Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts

"Resembles the audacious dark comedy material that John Waters and Charles Busch specialize in." – PopLifeSTL

Now, on the other hand, one woman really hated my show. She emailed MetroTix, writing, "I would like a refund for my order. The show was highly offensive and outright disgusting to sit and watch. Had to leave at intermission due to fear of the content getting even more explicit and offensive." (I have to give props where they are due -- she was right that Act II is indeed even more explicit and offensive. And a lot more sacrilegious.) What did she think she was going to see? Also, you don't get a refund because you didn't like the show -- live theatre isn't Amazon.

Maybe she missed the angel baby with the bong in the logo. Though maybe she wouldn't know a bong if you threw it at her head. Still, with "Johnny Appleweed" in the title? Maybe she was fooled by the words "Jesus" and "Family." If so, that's Robert's fault. He suggested adding "Family" to the title (which really did make it funnier).

Despite Mrs. Buzzkill, every night after the show, people told me it was hilarious, that they loved it, and a few (who were likely stoned AF) told me I'm a genius. One subscriber told me I'm a sick puppy -- but she was smiling. I noticed that people of color in the audience seemed the most enthusiastic and complimentary after performances, maybe because the show says a lot of things about race that usually go unsaid...

For me, the best barometer of the audience's mindset is to see if the laughs come at character and plot jokes, which tells us the audience is engaged and following the story. Even with less boisterous audiences, we could tell that they were engaged with this show. 

My true heroes are these actors who brought my show to life. They worked so hard. Our four poor carolers had to sing a shitload of really close, crunchy, four-part jazz harmonies. And the actors had to contend with the very heightened style and bizarre story, and yet deliver honest, real performances. What makes a show like this funny is the seriousness with which the actors play it. The more serious the characters are, the funnier the show gets. It works like Bat Boy, Urinetown, Cry-Baby, Spelling Bee, Head Over Heels, Yeast Nation, Little Shop, Rocky Horror, and so many other shows. It's my favorite style of musical. Had you already guessed that?

Also, as a dedicated and open pot smoker, I love that I've created a few new stoner Christmas carols. It's about time! Soon, "The Elves Get Stoned," "Have Another Toke and Have a Merry Christmas," and "Holy Rollin' Christmas" will all be classics, no doubt.

To my great surprise and delight, quite a few women came up to me after the show to tell me they wanted "Hoo-Hoo of Steel" t-shirts, after the song of the same name in the show. So we asked our graphic designer Matt Reedy to create a "Hoo-Hoo" logo (he created two!), we set them up, and we put them on sale. Who knew my freaky, adult, stoner Christmas musical would spawn merch!

I'm so grateful to everyone who went on this wild ride with me, our intrepid orchestrator John Gerdes and the rest of the New Line Band, our techies and designers and staff. We brought some really talented new people into the New Line family with this show, and that's always cause for a Huzzah! or three. Musical theatre is my favorite art form but I can't make a musical alone; it only works when a bunch of people agree to go on the journey with me, trusting that I know where we're going. (I mostly do.)

After three years, I say goodbye to the Goodsons, their ghosts, and their carolers. I hope they'll be okay. It's been alternately terrifying and awesome. But I will miss these folks, particularly Uncle Hugh.

Now I'll sleep for a few weeks.

Long Live the Musical! And Happy Holidays!

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