Chad Whitlock, Desert Star Playhouse
"MY BIG FAT UTAH CHRISTMAS"; Desert Star Playhouse, 4861 S. State, Murray; 7 p.m. (6:30 dinner seating) now through Jan. 5; tickets, 801-266-2600; running time 2 hours with one intermission and Winter Wonderland olios
MURRAY — This time, not only are the olios well worth watching, but the second half of the show saves the first.
"Big Fat Utah Christmas" doesn't take off until after intermission.
Before that, there's a lot of ho-humness as the audience makes the cast work really hard for a laugh.
The Gadianton Robbers (Bonnie and Clyde, played by Lynette Parry and Matt Kohler) are setting up a job and Dana (played by Carli Christoffersen on opening night) is setting up a family Christmas with the other side of the family, the side whose parents are NOT on a mission.
She invites more than she bargained for as relatives fill her house and bring along their long-standing feud (Earl and LaVerl, played by Richie T. Steadman Thursday). They're still unhappy with each other over the disposition of grandma's rocker.
Earl and LaVerl bring in a good bit of comedy as they alternate roles and make lightning-speed costume changes.
Matt Mullaney played Pearl, the family matriarch, on opening night and brings the classic character to life with spunk and heart and a really ugly Christmas sweater.
Bonnie of the Bonnie and Clyde dishonest duo becomes part of the family without really meaning to get entrenched. She really likes this Mormon family and doesn't want to rob them.
Her partner in crime, Matt Kohler as Clyde/cousin Merle, is more focused on the dastardly deed, yet he's funny as he tries to order beer or a coke in the Mormon household. He also tells ludicrous lies to explain his long absence. "I had leprosy but I got better."
Ashley LaRue Haslam is the daughter, Mathilda, and Andrew Nadon plays her brother Tim. Both children are dragged along for the fun, fussing most of the way. Haslam has great fun with the childish habits that drive a good mom mad like hollering "Mom! Mom! Mom!" for attention.
Just about every Mormon cliche is included somewhere in this spoof, from references to secret combinations to "They're Mormons, not Morons!" and a lot of bathroom and BYU Cougar jokes. While it's all harmless, it helps to come in prepared.
When the CSI Horatio look-a-like character comes on the scene to wrap things up, it's hilarious.
The olios, which give the cast a chance to show how well they can sing and perform, include a lively ballet number with men in tights and babies in their blanket sleepers with an extra set of hands that do their own thing.
The choreography is complex and flawless. The vocals are beautiful. It's a great mix of silly and lovely.
Added to the show, it makes for a fun evening that brings in the holiday season with some recognition that it takes some bumps to get a well-meaning family back together.
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.
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