by Clark Groome
For all its irreverence and eccentric contents, Ambler’s Act II Playhouse’s “Making Spirits Bright,” billed as “a comedy cabaret for the holidays,” captures the spirit of the season, albeit somewhat differently from the traditional holiday fare.
The 70-minute show that runs through Jan. 3 starts with a hilarious medley of little known or somewhat offbeat Christmas songs. Titles like “Please, Daddy, Don’t Get Drunk on Christmas,” “The Italian Christmas Donkey” and “I’m a Christmas Unicorn” are part of the medley along with ones about hippopotamuses and, how to say this this, a visitor to the mall to see Santa after having eaten a large bowl of baked beans with all the expected gaseous after-effects, and several traditional holiday songs that have been used as commercials.
The five-member company — Tony Braithwaite, Howie Brown, Will Dennis, Sonny Leo and Anne Wechsler — handles the material well, seeming to enjoy it as much as the audience.
Tony Braithwaite, always a delight, does particularly well with his rendering of David Sedaris’ “Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol,” an essay about a theater critic whose scathing reviews of school children’s holiday shows is both hilarious and sad.
Pianist Sonny Leo, in what was the show’s best moment, brings down the house with his rendition of Irving Berlin’s “I Love a Piano.”
Less successful was the improv in which a victim from the audience’s life is portrayed after being interrogated about his history. It seemed a bit contrived and just a tad mean.
Overall, however, “Making Spirits Bright” lives up to its title.
For ticket information, call 215-654-0200 or visit www.act2.org.