Wrapping up 2013’s Holiday Hoopla are the Santa Babies (from left): Dolly (Stacie Boord), Dixie (Julie Klein) and Dorothy (Stephanie Shull) (Studio 66 photo)
Going to Holiday Hoopla is one of Columbus’s scarier annual traditions. You never know just what to expect. When Shadowbox Live presented its first Hoopla 21 years ago, the highlights were a touching one-act play and a flaky lounge act called the Santa Babies. Other than bringing back the comical Babies each year, the troupe has been tweaking and re-tweaking the show’s formula ever since. In recent years, it’s tried tying the whole evening together with one plot line (bad idea) and dropping such beloved elements as the gorgeous harmonized tune Children Go Where I Send Thee (terrible idea). But rest assured, Hoopla fans. The 2013 version is one of the best. Things do slow down a bit toward the end, but most of the show strikes just the right balance between laughs and music, edginess and sentiment. The Act 1 skits are particularly clever, starting with Christmas Tree Plea, which pits a jaded hipster (Jamie Barrow) against a talking evergreen (Stacie Boord). You know the hipster is going to get the worst of the argument when he explains that he wears a John Deere hat to make an ironic statement about trendy people who wear John Deere hats. It’s followed by Merry Textmas, a funny/sad piece about two quarreling lovers (JT Walker III and Amy Lay) who try to thumb-type their way to a reconciliation. And that’s followed by NSA Gift Program, which recommends that we perfect our gift giving by taking the advice of the folks who know our loved ones the best because they’ve been listening in on their private conversations. Also presented before intermission is The Christmas Talk, a skit whose execution isn’t quite as funny as its premise. But the first half ends big with the latest appearance by Casey Kasem (a pitch-perfect Jimmy Mak) and some of his favorite stars of yesteryear. Among them is an aged Aretha Franklin (Noelle Grandison), who responds to Miley Cyrus’s trashy ways by singing a special version of Respect that urges young girls to ignore “those dumb bitches on TV.” The Act 2 skits offer a few laughs, but they don’t live up to their predecessors. The biggest disappointment is American Doll, if only because it overshoots a prime target—namely, the overpriced title toy. Music-wise, the show offers no reason for complaint. 2013’s Hoopla features all the usual favorites: Christmas in Sarajevo, Father Christmas, I Believe in Father Christmas and, best of all, Children Go Where I Send Thee. It also freshens things up with relatively unfamiliar numbers such as Lay’s wonderful rendition of O Come Emmanuel. As always, it all ends with the Santa Babies. Truthfully, they’ve been funnier, but when they drop the comic antics and sing a number straight, their Andrews Sisters-style harmonizing adds to the joy of the season. So, for that matter, does the show in general. Holiday Hoopla continues through Dec. 28 at Shadowbox Live, 503 S. Front St. Show times are 7:30 p.m. select Tuesdays-Thursdays, and 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. select Fridays-Saturdays (no shows Nov. 26-28 or Dec. 25). Tickets are $30, $20 for students, seniors (55-plus) and active military personnel. 614-416-7625 or CUTLINE:

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