Theater review: 45th Annual Bernstein Family Christmas Spectacular at Magnetic Theatre

NAUGHTY BUT NICE: The 45th Annual Bernstein Family Christmas Spectacular is s a crazy holiday romp. Photo courtesy of The Magnetic Theatre

The Bernsteins are back and bawdier than ever in Asheville’s craziest Christmas show. The all-new 45th Annual Bernstein Family Christmas Spectacular, staged by by The Magnetic Theatre, is turning holiday traditions on their head. The show runs through Friday, Dec. 23.

Last year’s cast remains intact as the fictional Bernstein showbiz family gathers for a holiday production that veers off the tracks and leaves the clan scrambling to keep it together.

While holiday stage shows are often safe, family-friendly affairs, that’s not the case with this one. Leave the children at home, unless they are of drinking age and enjoy daring, edgy, R-rated and highly entertaining humor. All that said, it’s a hilarious night of Christmas cheer, and the best of the seven Bernstein productions so far. It screams Asheville sensibilities.

New director Jeff Catanese understands this production and gets strong performances from the players. Returning are Tracey Johnston-Crum as the sexy, vodka-swilling mom, Judy; Darren Marshall as Uncle Justin (a bit like Curly from the Three Stooges, only crazier); Glenn Reed as the wacky Jimbo (forever smoking a bong or rolling up a joint); Erik Moellering as Jerry and Kirby Gibson as Jamaica — the only clear headed member of this bunch.

The story, by Lucia Del Vecchio, Genevieve Packer, Peter Lundblad and Jim Julien, sets the action during the Bernstein’s annual Christmas show, an insane twist on one of those TV holiday variety specials of yore. An accident involving a Christmas tree leaves the group making an unexpected revision on this year’s production.

A new Bernstein is needed, and that’s not an easy matter to revolve. After auditions, the winner of this coveted role is a Latin-lover type, Joaquin (Moellering), whose selection is accepted by all the Bernsteins except Jamaica, who is irritated to no end and must make her own decision about participating in the show.

But the auditions are just one element in Bernstein 45. There’s a send-up of TV’s “The View,” with guests including Beyonce (Gibson in a nice performance) and the Sugar Plum Fairy (Reed).

A visit to the Bernstein Hall shines some light on this family history. Marshall slips into the role of Santa for fireside chat. Johnston-Crum has a singing showcase and the the Pas de Dudes bit can only be seen to be fully understood as Jimbo and Joaquin head off in new directions. The skits allow all the players to perform beyond being members of the Bernstein clan.

Johnson-Crum and Marshall dominate with their performance, but everyone in this show does some strong acting. It’s an extremely talented bunch with big chemistry.

The production includes integrated “commercials” for show sponsors, an entertaining way to give credit to its backers. And yes, Baby Jesus in diapers is in there too. It wouldn’t be a Bernstein show without him.

WHAT: 45th Annual Bernstein Family Christmas Spectacular
WHERE: The Magnectic Theatre, 375 Depot St.,
WHEN: Thursday through Saturday Dec. 8-10 and 15-17, at 7:30 p.m.; Wednesday through Friday, Dec. 21-23, at 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, Dec. 10 and 17, at 10 p.m. $24


About Tony Kiss
Tony Kiss covers brewing news for the Xpress. He has been reporting on the Carolina beer scene since 1994. He's also covered distilling and cider making and spent 30 years reporting on area entertainment. Follow me @BeerguyTK

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