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A CurtainUp Review
"The Holiday Guys" in Happy Merry Hanu-Mas

"It's hard to be a Jew on Christmas "— Marc Kudisch putting his own spin on Trey Parker and Matt Stone's "A Lonely Jew on Christmas."
The Holiday Guys in Happy Merry Hanu-Mas
Mark Kudisch pajamas covered by a Tallit Shawl and Jeffrey Denman in sporting a Santa Claus look as they celebrate the true spirit of the holiday season.
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
We've reviewed two unusual and welcome new Christmas shows, A Civil War Christmas and It's a Wonderful Life. Add to these new additions to the annual holiday entertainment fare, a variety entertainment with the portmanteau title Happy Merry Hanu-Mas created by and starring two thespians calling themselves "The Holiday Guys."

Marc Kudisch is the Jewish half of the "Holiday Guys" now offering New Yorkers a delightfully silly, song and dance filled good time at the York Theatre. The fun loving baritone's Christmas celebrating friend is the nimble-toed Jeffry Denman who is, like Kudisch, an award-winning musical theater veteran.

Kudisch has turned the South Park Guys' satiric ditty "A Lonely Jew on Christmas" on its head. And that's true for every one of the show's more than a dozen songs, (many of which, as Kudisch points out, were written by Jewish songsmiths. The chatty variety show has the sort of improv sensibility that is invariably carefully crafted.

You may think you know most of the songs listed "in no particular order" and supposedly performed strictly as the spirit moves Kudisch and Denman. But trust me, the song arrangements and the way they're presented is a strictly "Holiday Guys" thing.

James Morgan, the York Theater's long time artistic producing director who's also a busy set designer (He also did the set for the above mentioned It's A Wonderful Town, has artfully cluttered the miniscule stage with Christmas trees and menorahs to accommodate the ecumenically open-minded festivities. There's also a cozy fire place, with a blazing video lit fire, comfortable armchairs to accommodate our Guys' casual lounge-about style (Kudish first appears in a Snuggie and then strips down to pajamas).What's more, Morgan has left room for the 3-piece combo led by Timothy Splain to be right on stage,. Miraculously there's also enough space for Denman , who's a modern day Fred Astaire, to do some fancy tap dancing. In fact, in my, he very favorite number, "Put One Foot Before the Other," he gives Kudisch (no slouch as a dancer either) a tap dance lesson.

Besides Splain on the piano, Ritt Henn and Mike Croiter on Bass and percussions, the versatile Guys occasionally play guitars and kazoos and a bongo drum. In another show stopping scene, a celebrity guest is brought on to do a radio play style reading of The Night Before Christmas, with Kudisch and Denman and the band providing the sound effects. On the night I attended, the guest was Tyne Daily. Depending on when you go the reader is likely to be Carson Kressley, Michael Riedel, Bobby Steggert, Ted Chapin or John Weidman.

Theres lots of warm hearted chatter, the jokes and the interactive shtick that presents several audience members with gift wrapped presents whose contents are revealed so they can easily be re-gifted. But this is all window dressing for the show's real creme-de-la-creme element -- the music.

While the show's run time is listed as being approximately 85 minutes, it went on for at least 15 minutes more on the night I attended. This can be attributed to Kudisch and Denman being consummate entertainers who clearly love being on stage and are not stingy with their encores. Their show doesn't come wrapped in a big, fancy package of glitzy stagecraft, but I can't think of a better holiday treat than a ticket to Happy Merry Hanu-Mas at the York where every seat is a good seat.

The Holiday Guys in Happy Merry Hanu-Mas
Created by and starring Marc Kudisch and Jeffry Denman
Music direction: Timothy Splain (Ritt Hann, Bass & Mike Croiter, Drums).
Scenic design: James Morgan
Lighting: Christopher Robinson
Light Board: Brett Nichols
Stage Manager: Wyaatt Kuether
Running Time: 85 minutes, no intermission
York Theatre Company 619 Lexington Ave
From 12/18/12; closing 12/31/12
Reiewed by Elyse Sommer at December 18th press preview

Songs (in No Particular Order to Be Performed As The Spirit MovesUs)
Put One Foot In Front of the Other (Maury Laws)
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas] (Hugh Martin & Ralph Blan)
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Traditional Christmas Song)
There's Always Tomorrow (Johnny Marks)
The Christmas Song ( Mel Tome & Bob Wellls)
Lonely Jew on Christmas (Trei Parker & Matt Stone, additional material by Marc Kudisch and Michael Levine)
Do You Hear What I Hear (Noel Regney & Gloria Shane) Peace on Earth (Ian Fraser, Larry Grossman, Alan Kohan)
Hanukkah! 0 Christmas Tree (Original arrangements)
Jingle Bells (James Lord Pierpont)
My Simple Christmas Wish (David Friedman)
Christmas Time is Here (Vince Guaraldi)
The Jazzy Nutcracker (Tchaikovsky via Duke Ellington) Holly Jolly Christmas (Johnny Marks)
All songs arranged by Kudisch & Newman with additional arrangements by Timothy Spain, Dan Lipton and Ross Patterson).
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