The Queen family holds a yearly holiday telethon to raise money and this year is no different. With one exception. This year they are under a court mandate that they have to include acts that expand out beyond their own denominational faith. As such there is a performance from an Amish family, a Jewish girl and others. Why this mandate is in place is not entirely clear, nor is it entirely clear who the Queen family is or why they are doing a telethon. But that is the premise and the resulting variety show makes up The Actors’ Gang holiday show.
There are several acts that are very good. The Amish version of the song “Cups” is hysterical and the iPhone band is very fun. However, by and large the guest performers are the best part of the evening. Anna Walter’s aerial act is gorgeous and Jason Rodgers is one of the best tap dancers that I have ever seen. Mike Rayner’s dead pan humor is fantastic. He is a cross between Christopher Walken and Mr. Rogers who does tricks and yells at the audience. Unfortunately each act only lasts about five minutes and like all variety shows, some are definitely better than others, and some should be trimmed down or cut altogether.
However, what was truly disappointing was the hackneyed story – that has as many subplots as a George R.R. Martin novel – that is strung together as the glue connecting each act. The performances of some of the cast are so over the top they look like they came straight from a “Saturday Night Live” audition, while others are much more subdued creating a very mixed world especially with the guest artists thrown in. The Queen family itself consists of blatant stereotypes and caricatures with recycled storylines and an ending that is so sickeningly cheesy it makes Cheez-Whiz look gourmet in comparison. This production is so busy trying to be clever and to get laughs that in the end a better time is had by those involved than by those watching. Sometimes stepping back and simplifying is one of the best things that can be done for a show. This is one of those instances.
*Coverage provided for the Culver City News