A hard-edged NYC police officer flies out to Los Angeles to spend Christmas with his estranged wife and family, but gets caught up in a massive robbery attempt and he’s the only hope to stop the thieves. Hey, this might make for a good movie! But it’s A Very Die Hard Christmas and it’s currently playing at BlueBarn Theatre.
Jeff Schell and the Habit knew just what notes to strike when they decided to lampoon this classic action flick. They actually stay true to the story, but completely upend its spirit with a comedic tour de force guaranteed to leave you wheezing for air before the night is through. The meta aspect of the script is its finest quality as the show is aware it’s a show. And a show done on the cheap at that as they can’t afford a full contingent of criminals and rely on Nerf ammo and squirt guns to mete out the show’s rampant violence.
Susan Clement dives into the heart of this show with a stylish bit of direction. The show is immaculately staged as actors flow in and out of scenes as seamlessly as a rolling river. Clement is able to give each actor a moment to shine and each feels like an individual and not just a piece of the ensemble. Her coaching is right on the money as each performer gives a well-developed performance. But keep your eyes on everybody or you might miss some subtle sight gags going on in the background of the crowd scenes.
Each member of the ensemble is a joy to watch and you’ll be treated to some quality work from Jonathan Purcell as Ellis, a coked-up prick who arrogantly thinks he can negotiate his way to safety and has a surprising set of pipes when he sings about how he “doesn’t want to die tonight”. Roni Shelley-Perez lights it up in overacting, soap operatic glory as McClane’s estranged wife, Holly. Raydell Cordell III is a scream as a Nakatomi employee who continuously pops up to say, “Oh, snap!” as well as providing a gentle take on Sgt. Al Powell, a police officer who lost some of his heart when he shot a kid.
Katie Becker-Colon might have the best role in the show as the Narrator. Dolled up like Andy Warhol, Becker-Colon pops up to move the story along with endless variations and styles of Twas the Night Before Christmas while filling in needed gaps for assistance such as playing the piano or serving as a cameraperson for the obsequious reporter hungering for a scoop. Becker-Colon is also a heck of a hoofer as I was blown away by her crisp dancing in the musical numbers.
Hughston Walkinshaw is magnetic as Hans Gruber, the criminal mastermind. His performance invokes reminisces of Alan Rickman without aping him. Walkinshaw is clearly having a ball as he cold-bloodedly squirts people to death, clomps around the stage while monologuing, and occasionally flips characters to Severus Snape for obligatory Harry Potter jokes.
Josh Peyton is a worthy John McClane as he makes the role his own. He’s a chain-smoking, blue collar cop determined to see justice done regardless of regulations. Peyton’s physicality is staggering as he deftly moves between building floors to dodge murderous thieves, hangs and shimmies down a bar, and rolls, rolls, rolls his way to justice and cover. His fistfight with a life sized doll near the end of Act I is easily one of the funniest sight gags I have ever seen on stage.
Melanie Walters’ choreography is a blast to watch. Robert Donlan’s set provides the feel of a cheaper version of downtown LA with the towering Nakatomi building. Joshua Mullady’s lights really add some spice to the show with the starlit night sky and the complete drop to darkness before doing a slow light rise for the entrances of the FBI. Jennifer Pool’s costumes evoke memories of the film from McClane’s dirty T-shirt to the 80s style clothes of the Nakatomi employees.
It’s fast, furious, and funny and it’s almost sold out. As of this writing, the only available tickets remaining are for the Dec 8 show at 7:30pm and they’re limited. So visit www.bluebarn.org or call 402-345-1576 to grab one of the last tickets for this Christmas blockbuster. Tickets cost $35.
A Very Die Hard Christmas runs through December 19. Due to profanity, the show is not recommended for young children. BlueBarn Theatre is located at 1106 S 10th St in Omaha, NE.