Colorado Springs theater offers up something a little different for the holidays
Yule Be Naughty,” showing through Dec. 22 at the Millibo Art Theatre, stuffs the stocking with something for everyone — including comfortably naughty nuggets. The two-hour circus-styled cabaret features stunning aerial acts, melodic holiday vocals and risqué but restrained antics.
The show is emceed by Jim Jackson, a 40-year theatre veteran who is equal parts clown, actor, comic, director, writer, and co-founder of the MAT with his wife, Birgitta De Pree. Appearing as an oversized elf in red socks and top hat, Jackson’s improvisational skills are spot-on. Stage props are his comic fodder as he wrestles with a ladder and clowns with a mirror in slapstick stunts between acts. He even manages to outwit an annoyingly relentlessly heckler.
Aerialist Elizabeth Fluharty has blossomed in her time at the MAT, now adding comedy to her repertoire as Crumpet Snowflake, a mischievously mute elf. Later, she mesmerized the full house in a spectacle of red and green silks as she climbed, encircled, swung and slithered with precision. She is joined in one particularly playful act by Jessica Weil, but the duo lost some of the intended synchronization in their aerial dance due to the performers’ variance in skill. Weil’s later solo act showcased a more developed skill as she took the audience on a psychedelic journey with her neon-lighted hula-hoop.
The show is heavy on circus arts; still, their energy and dazzle bedazzle the audience. A 19-year veteran of Cirque du Soleil, Ukrainian-born Tatiana Stepanchenko spins and twists on her aerial arch, defying the laws of physics with her balance, flexibility and arm strength.
Even hidden behind the ivories, pianist and singer Jerry McCauley filled the stage with sound and showmanship, whether accompanying or harmonizing. Joined by recording artist, chanteuse and veteran of the MAT’s Circus of the Night, Miriam Roth is a rare talent and regular on local stages as well as a voice teacher and acting coach. Joined by newcomer Zach Guzman, the trio found synergy in edgy, provocative vocals.
In his solo serenade, Guzman crooned like Sinatra, that is until disco lights encircled the theater and he went naughty with a seemingly impromptu striptease: first the suit jacket, then the tie, and finally the shirt — and that’s just enough for this newly-tempered MAT mantra. Still, it didn’t stop the house from shouting to “take it off.”
Out of synch with the show’s holiday theme — and venturing beyond the naughty — was a pole-dancing act. Amazingly athletic, creative and provocative, the scantily clad performer pushed risqué to the edge of raunchy. Holiday garb, an infusion of Jackson antics or even a seasonal tune might have better aligned this act with the show.
Unsuspecting first-rowers were in for a MAT mainstay: audience engagement right down the last. At show’s close, Jackson and the troupe invited the audience to the on-stage dance party as patrons took to the floor or boogied their way stage left to leave.
But first, the MAT served-up its last bite of naughtiness: Miriam Roth belted out “Santa Got stuck In My Chimney,” and its speculative innuendo as to how and why — but with Roth’s sincere hope that he’ll come again next year.