The SantaLand Diaries written by David Sedaris and adapted by Joe Mantello opened at the Copaken Stage in the H&R Block building in downtown Kansas City. Produced by the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, and directed by Jerry Genochio this is the second holiday offering that the KC Rep has staged. A Christmas Carol starring Gary Neal Johnson as Scrooge continues at the Spencer Theatre through December 26.
The SantaLand Diaries, adapted in 1996 by Mantello from a radio essay by Sedaris in 1992 is the tale of Sedaris as he takes a job as a Macy’s elf for the holidays. Armed with only moderately funny dialogue the one-actor story continues from hiring to Christmas, at times making the audience beg for New Year’s Day to arrive.
Brian Sills stars as Crumpet the elf, and does a good job with the bland material he has to work with. Sills has previously appeared with the KC Rep as the Emcee in Cabaret. Across the country, he has appeared in New York, the U.S. National Tour of the The Lion King, and Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
The audience seemed slightly shocked as he appears from behind a decorated package and returns dressed in an elf’s costume complete with red and white leggings. Other than a modest scattering of muffled laughter, the only other moment that put the audience in a state of awe was the scenery, when the package opens to reveal the set. Unfortunately this occurs in the early part of the program, leaving the audience little else to look forward to.
The highlight of the program were the humorous musical offerings of the Shenanigans, a musical duo touring with Santa. With little traditional holiday songs, except humorously rewritten tunes, the Shenanigans entertained the audience, which erupted in laughter at several of their antics. Taking their holiday humor to the lobby, they performed for the post show party.
Clayborne Elder and Shanna Jones play the musicians of the Shenanigans. Both demonstrated a high quality of comedic timing and the KC Rep may have been better served at having the band perform an hour concert and leaving the elf to work on Christmas toys.
Elder has previously appeared in KC Rep productions of Pippin, Cabaret, and Into the Woods. In New York, he appeared in the Broadway production of Bonnie and Clyde. Jones has performed for two years with the Shenanigans in New York and across the country. She has appeared on stage in Les Miserables, and Romeo and Juliet, among other productions.
The SantaLand Diaries continues through December 22, however the better choice for a family holiday outing may be the spectacular KC Rep production of A Christmas Carol.