By Ian Rigg
Jingle bells, McClane’s feet smell, Gruber laid an egg…
Thanks to Yippee Productions LLC, a new partnership between lead producer Drew DeSantis (Producer at Drury Lane Productions), Jim Jensen (Drury Lane, Royal George, Commercial Theater Producer and General Manager), Mark Michelson (MJA Ventures Chicagoland Theatre Fund, Founder) and the Board of Directors of the former storefront comedy theater MCL Chicago (2014-2018), the internet’s favorite Christmas movie, Die Hard, is now back on the storefront scene in a newly-expanded version of MCL’s musical parody experience.
Yippee Ki-Yay Merry Christmas is a fun holiday treat that holds audiences hostage, packed to the roof with 80s references. With witty book and lyrics by Michael Shepherd Jordan and Alex Garday and rad music by Stephanie McCullough, the earnest entertainment is the kind to crawl through air ducts for.
Director Tifanni Moore Swalley keeps the pace fast, the tone hysterical, and the action explosive. She comes up with increasingly imaginative and ad hoc ways to up the comedic ante, from remote control cars and toy helicopters, to tossing Twinkies to the crowd.
Costume and Prop Designer Katelyn Downing had her work cut out for her, but she had fun with big colors, even bigger hair, a glittery backpack full of C4, a Terminator getup, and increasingly bloodied tank-tops.
Scenic designer Eric Luchen, Lighting Designer Lindsey Lyddan and Sound Designer Brandon Reed come together to help take the action to over-the-top 80s level.Choreographer Sheena Laird has an equally good time with her stylish moves, conquering diverse challenges like a tap dancing fight scene, an 80s career woman power ballad, and a whole gospel choir on cocaine (no, really. It’s the 80s).
Pulling double duty as a most imaginative fight choreographer, Bill Gordon executes an unforgettably hysterical fist fight between our hero and a My Buddy doll that’s worth the price of admission alone.
But none of the hilarity works without the devoted cast. Not quite all of the jokes land, but there’s plenty of but-gusting laughs to be had, and the high energy zeal of these performers will keep smiles on the audience’s faces the entire run.
Bill Gordon makes the perfect grizzled blue collar cop, anchoring the slapstick action with the perfect amount of action hero tongue-in-cheek self-awareness. Plus, the man does the entire show barefoot: stand for him, folks.
Gary Fields’ Hans Olo may not walk away with the millions in bearer bonds, but he sure steals a hell of a lot of laughs with his perfectly deadpan spin on Alan Rickman.
Caitlyn Cerza is a badass as Holly Generic, with riffs and one-liners galore.
It takes a special talent to sing about having sex with Twinkies, and Terrance Lamonte Jr. is the bromance LA cop up to the task.
Nate Curlott’s testosterone-fuelled, jauntily jingoistic FBI Johnson will no doubt be an audience favorite.
Jenna Steege is a blast as company sleeze-bag Willis.
Alex Divirgilio does Ah-nold proud, Ashley Geron is a hoot as the buffoonish Deputy Chief, and Jonathan Allsop is a character Swiss army knife.
Jin Kim is riotous as the Mario-jumping “Nintendo” Nakatomi, who begs for death in increasingly Shakespearean monologues after the Konami code gives him 30 lives, and Gruber’s gang takes them one by one.
And Erin Long is the show’s MVP, with excellent dancing and brilliant comedic chops as the moronic terrorist Klaus.
For a cool Yule, Yippee Ki-Yay Merry Christmas: A Die Hard Musical Parody is a great group outing, especially a company one. Just make sure your organization doesn’t have a safe full of bearer bonds first.
“Yippee Ki-Yay Merry Christmas: A Die Hard Musical Parody” runs through January 12, 2019 at The Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago. More information an tickets are available here.