Hell in a Handbag’s THE RIP NELSON HOLIDAY SPECTACULAR Review- Larger Than Life Show

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(center) Ed Jones as Rip Nelson sings as (back, l to r) Dom Deluise (Tommy Bullington), Bruce Jenner (Chazie Bly), Doug Henning (David Lipschutz), Liza Minnelli (Alexa Castelvecchi) and Patti LaBelle (Robert Williams) join along Rick Aguilar Studios

Hell in a Handbag’s TV Special

Gone are the days of seeing a perfectly scripted and choreographed holiday special on television.The year is 1982, and Rip Nelson, played by Ed Jones, is back hosting this television holiday spectacular (sponsored by Kraft cheese slices) after his nemesis Paul Lynde has suddenly died and left the position up for grabs. He takes on this role because it might get his career back on track after another stint in rehab for alcohol addiction.

Along the way he has to wrangle his fellow cast members in order to get the show on the road. We meet the feuding Lennon Sisters and King Cousins, the naive and pre-transition Bruce Jenner, the magician and slightly creepy Doug Henning, along with Patti LaBelle, Liza Minnelli, and many more.

We find out what it takes to stay strong in the face of complications and how to keep it together to put on a good show when it seems like no one can get along— and all you want is a drink!

Larger than life show

With the drama of clashing personalities comes a loud and unabashed show where every single character is over the top dramatic. However, this works to each of their advantages because you are constantly engaged with the action happening and excited about what drama is going to happen next. You get to see the different character work that went into the actors being able to parody their true life counterparts. Alexa Castevecchi is a brilliant example as she captures the tone and tenor of Minnelli’s voice during “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

The first act moves quickly from one parody television skit to the next, ranging from a Frosty the Snowman lookalike with a not-so-happy ending to a Cats musical tribute.

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(left to right) Guest star Liza Minnelli (Alexa Castelvecchi) is on a rampage as her host, Rip Nelson (Ed Jones), tries to reason with her Rick Aguilar Studios

It’s a bit confusing when you can’t distinguish when the cameras are rolling and when the cast is simply being themselves, because they seem to argue both on camera and off without stopping.

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(left to right) Rip Nelson (Ed Jones) performs a number with the fabulous Patti LaBelle (Robert Williams) Rick Aguilar Studios

Luckily, the second act slows it down a bit where instead of the short skits establishing character conflicts, we delve deeper into the meta-world of Rip’s show. Everyone's’ problems that happened in the first act come to a climactic end scene where Jesus and Santa face off against the devil himself...Kermit the Frog! In the end however, the holiday special wraps up in a happily ever after, as does the story for each of the characters, all thanks to the beloved Rip!

A Lasting Legacy for Hell in a Handbag

Hell in a Handbag Productions has created a truly versatile character with Rip Nelson that lets Ed Jones play a hilariously dysfunctional recovering alcoholic that can be written into any circumstance.

This play itself is fun for those who have lived through the 80s and either want to relive it again, or have a chance to catch up on all their references the younger generation might miss. The Rip Nelson Holiday Spectacular gets you into the holiday spirit with classic holiday tunes, but also is a fun time to laugh at the absurdity of it all. Recommended.

When:

Now through December 20th
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm
Sundays at 6:30 pm
There will not be performances on Sunday, December 4, Saturday, December 24 (Christmas Eve) and Sunday, December 25 (Christmas Day)
There will be an added performance on Wednesday, December 21 at 7:30 pm.

Where:

Mary’s Attic
5400 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60640

Tickets:

$28 - $30
VIP tickets $42 and up.
Group rates 10+ $21
Tickets are currently available at www.handbagproductions.org or by calling (800) 838-3006.

Photo:

Rick Aguilar Studios

Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theater in Chicago.

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