Mad River Union
It’s Christmas season and Virginia (Amy Tatzlaff) and Paul (Ryan Musil), the new owners of the Bigfoot Lodge, are putting on their first holiday jamboree. Fresh out of Wisconsin, they’re eager to ditch the old traditions and introduce the lodgers to the new, like cheese balls.
The Arcata Playhouse’s annual holiday show, Bigfoot Lodge Holiday Jamboree, is, in fact, very much like a cheese ball. For those of you unfamiliar with this delicacy, a cheese ball is cheese spread shaped into a volleyball sized orb and presented on a raised platter accompanied by crackers. Now, bear with me as I belabor the analogy.
Cheese balls can be made of any type of soft cheese, from Velveeta to, oh, Humboldt Fog. Just as the best cheese balls combine cheeses, the Holiday Jamboree variety show is a mashup of the ridiculous and the sublime, often at the same time. Witness, for example, the performance of TwinkleStar backup dancers David Ferney and Ryan Musil, whose antics alone are worth the price of admission.
A superior cheese ball contains some sort of fruits and/or vegetables that add crunch to the creamy texture. The excellent Bigfoot Lodge house band, led by Tim Randles, adds that zest, with their countrified/jazzy versions of traditional Christmas tunes sure to appeal to the most jaded holiday musical tastes.
Typically, cheese balls are coated with a layer of crushed mixed nuts. The evening I attended (a benefit for the Soroptimists), the featured special guests were Art Jones, Trish Riel and Schatzi the dog, the latter two in adorable bigfoot costumes. The Jamboree’s special guests vary from show to show, so you’re never quite sure what you’re getting until you bite.
The platter is clearly the whimsical sets by Lush Newton and James Hildebrandt.
What about the crackers? Clearly, they are the audience, to whom the actors play, and from whom they receive support and encouragement. Like many Playhouse audiences, this one felt warm and homey; a woman sitting behind me knitted and guffawed throughout the show.
Finally, a cheese ball always takes place of pride on a holiday buffet table. Likewise, the Bigfoot Lodge Holiday Jamboree deserves a starring role in your holiday festivities.
You have three more chances to sample the Jamboree at Arcata Playhouse, 1251 Ninth St., from Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 12 to 14. Performances are at 8 p.m., tickets are $12 general/$10 students and members/$8 kids 12 and under and are available at Wildberries Marketplace, brownpapertickets.com or (707) 822-1575. Get some before it’s all gone.