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THEATER REVIEW: “The Second City’s Nut-Cracking Holiday Revue”

The recurring minor-key “Deck the Hall” theme is a clue. Not that the show will be a downer, but that this holiday revue may not be a, shall we say, typical Christmas show.

But if you’re looking for something a little different, “The Second City’s Nut-Cracking Holiday Revue” fills the bill with its trademark blend of sketch comedy, improv and audience participation.

The show plays through Dec. 21 at La Jolla Playhouse’s Forum Theatre and features six actors taking on topics like the difference between Christmas and Hanukkah, that long trip to grandma’s house for the big dinner and the embarrassment of gift inequality between lovers.

A Second City show depends in part on audience participation in the form of shouted ideas in response to questions, so this part changes with every performance. So too do the audience “volunteers” drafted to appear in a sketch. “The moral,” quips a cast member, “is don’t sit in the front row at a comedy show.”

On opening night, after a cast member “broke his ankle,” a male volunteer gamely joined the dancing chorus line number, showing not only holiday spirit but some facility at dance. Later, a baker was drafted to play Scrooge and be visited by “three non-denominational holiday spirits.” Bravo to both volunteers.

And of course, because we’re at La Jolla Playhouse, the hunchback from next door scuttles through on his way to the Weiss Theatre.

The troupe performs at the Forum rather than their usual venue, the Potiker (where, by the way, UCSD theater students complete a run of their wonderful production of “Golden Boy” on Dec. 13). The Forum can’t be reconfigured to a cabaret setup, but Second City made it work anyway.

And their version of the “Nutcracker” ballet must be seen to believed, and is worth the price of admission.

The details

"The Second City’s Nut-Cracking Holiday Revue” plays through Dec. 21 at La Jolla Playhouse’s Mandell Weiss Forum, 2910 La Jolla Village Drive (on the UCSD campus).

Tuesday and Wednesday at 8 pm; Thursday and Friday at 8:30 pm; Saturday at 2:30 and 8:30 pm; Sunday at 2:30 and 7:30 pm.

Tickets: (858) 550-1010 or HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.