Judy's Scary Little Christmas

Triangle Productions at Theater! Theatre!, 3430 SE Belmont St., 239-5919, Thurs 7:30 pm, Fri-Sat 8 pm, Sun 5 pm, through Dec. 21, $17-$23

Christmas is the drama queen of all the holidays, the sleigh bell-jingling prima donna covered in tinsel. Christmas pageants, plastic nativity scenes, and drunks with fake white beards are all part of the spectacle, as live theater turns to fruitcake--unpalatably sweet and worst of all, predictable.

There is an antidote to all those bulimic Nutcracker productions and community theater versions of A Christmas Carol. Judy's Scary Little Christmas is the most hilarious play to see this season, a fireside cocktail combining equal parts music, sweet vermouth, and transvestitism. Modeled after a live Christmas television special from 1959, Christmas is hosted by the then over-the-hill yet heart-crushingly adorable Judy Garland (Tony James), with a love bird voice and a faint shake in her hands and knees. Never mind that James is a man; his Judy Garland is far better in musical talent and sex appeal than the half-assed impression Liza Minnelli has been trying to pull off for the last 40 years.

Judy is joined on stage by Bing Crosby (Kelsey Tyler), whose crooner's voice and blue Irish eyes inspire extramarital fantasies. Liberace (Michael Teufel) is the belle of the ball, with gold cape and bejeweled fingers. Teufel's Liberace is amazing, provoking side-aching laughter with every Vaseline smile. Other celebrity guests include Ethel Merman (Daria O'Neill), Richard Nixon (Julie Jeske), Lillian Hellman (Dan Johnson), and Joan Crawford (Jason Coffee). As the cast grows larger, and drunker, the TV Christmas special starts to disintegrate into a real family Christmas, with obstinate arguments and skeletons creeping from the closets. The distinct and intense voices play savagely against one another, finally joining in a surprisingly beautiful chorus.

The booze and guest stars, an ever-eager APPLAUSE sign, and the specter of Death result in a surreal snow globe highball, a Hollywood Christmas card from beyond the grave. And if you need any more reason to enjoy Judy's Scary Little Christmas, the program includes a recipe for Liberace's Sticky Buns. TOUSSAINT PERRAULT