PROVO — With all the joy the holidays bring, it is no surprise that they can also bring along additional stress. The Christmas season can be a hectic time for many, oftentimes resulting in relief as the season comes to a close. After seeing the comical The Santaland Diaries at An Other Theater Company, I imagine needing respite is often the case for the typical elf working at Macy’s Santaland. Directed by Kacey Spadafora, The Santaland Diaries has now been produced for the third year at An Other Theater Company. Jordan Kramer is reprising his role as Crumpet, the sole character in the show who spends the evening recounting his incredulous tales as a Santaland Elf.
For well over a century, Santaland has been an annual Christmas tradition and staple in New York City. Since 1980, more than 200,000 visitors have come to see Santa inside Macy’s Herald Square. The Santaland Diaries is an essay written by David Sedaris and is a memoir of sorts based on his time and experiences as a Macy’s elf. Sedaris first read his humorous essay on NPR’s Morning Edition radio show in 1992, and it has been tradition ever since. The essay was later adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello in 1996, quickly becoming a comedic holiday classic.
Before The Santaland Diaries actually begins, the show opens with separate lip sync drag performances by Kaitlin Lemon Kocherhans, Laura Elise Chapman, Bryce Lloyd Fueston, and Brian Kocherhans. While Spadafora’s choice for this pre-show was likely to add fun and fresh elements to the production and provide the audience with something new, I could have done without it. It was simply not needed, and I felt that it quite literally dragged on. Furthermore, while I liked the basic premise of each number and believe all of these drag performers are talented actors, I didn’t feel that these performances were ready to be staged. The needed more rehearsal time to give them the spark and energy that they were missing.
However, the transition from the pre-show into The Santaland Diaries worked well, with Kramer performing a drag number as well and then immediately shifting into his role as Crumpet. The show started a bit slow but picked up quickly and only got better as it progressed. There were some moments that fell flat here and there, but overall Kramer is lovely and hilarious, making me laugh out loud multiple times. Some of my favorite moments included his rendition of, “Away in a Manger,” and the moment when he describes to a child that if they are “naughty” Santa no longer leaves coal but steals everything out of the house instead.
On top of the comedy that Kramer provides, he excels in painting a picture of what he is describing. Kramer weaves in and out of imitating all sorts of characters, adults and children alike. His expressions and vocal dynamics are impressive and helped me to visualize the outlandish stories he was telling. His intense vulnerability also helped to emphasize what a crazy environment Santaland can become, turning a seemingly joyous family outing into chaos filled with crying children, bathroom accidents, and frazzled parents waiting for over an hour to meet Santa. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the often sardonic lens that Kramer would recount these stories through.
As the holiday nears and visitors swarm the store by the thousands, Crumpet’s stories become more humorous and irreverent. Wham’s “Last Christmas” seemingly plays on a loop, and Crumpet sips from his flask while being driven closer to insanity each day, providing a deeply comedic premise. If you need your own relief from holiday stress and want to indulge in your more cynical side, The Santaland Diaries is the show for you.