by Adam Cohen
Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken were contestants on the second season “American Idol” – a television singing competition fifteen years ago. Both are singular talents who have combined to bring Ruben & Clay’s First Annual Christmas Carol Family Fun Pageant Spectacular Reunion Show to the Imperial Theater for a three week holiday run.
The Pageant is cute, playing to their respective strengths and personalities, while also illustrating their playful competition. The opening number features them out vocalizing while also dueling with visual stunts – Ruben as Phantom, Clay being suspended mid-curtain. Clay comes off more showy (lots of costume changes – loud sweaters and gold lame suit). Ruben mildly embarrassed with toilet humor (literally) and just wanting to sing.
And sing they do. Gloriously. The show features pretty much every Christmas tune you can think of rendered in an array of duets, solos and group numbers from the ensemble including Farah Alvin, Ken Arpino, Julian Diaz-Granados, La’Nette Wallace and Khaila Wilcoxon.
The pageant has the feel of 1970s television variety shows as rendered by Sonny and Cher or the Brady Bunch kids. It’s laden with cheesy jokes and good ones too – like the cast popping their heads out of a wrapping paper scrim for one-liners a la “Laugh In.”
The comedy definitely feels burdensome – especially as the evening is a two act when 90 minutes would suffice. In the second half, an unfortunate audience member is brought onstage for a game of “Holiday Mad-Libs” that results in an excruciating parody of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Better are the touching moments on Clay’s work with the National Inclusion Project and Ruben’s account of his late brother. Why this is done on video when they are on stage is a questionable choice.
Highlights include the show’s politically-correct take on the now-controversial #MeToo lyrics to “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is hilarious. Their harmonious closing duet on “O Holy Night,” affirms their popular status and winning vocal talents. Aiken and Studdard have lovely voices. The price of admission is worth it just for the singing. The comedy is corny and goofy but it’s an amiable evening.
Photos: Carol Rosegg
Imperial Theatre (249 West 45th Street) and continues its limited engagement through December 30, 2018. Tickets are now available online at Telecharge.com and by phone at 212-239-6200.
For more information, please visit rubenandclay.com