By Marcina Zaccaria
With Thanksgiving trimmings in foil and all the signs of Autumn fading, now is a good time to look past Cyber Monday and towards the Christmas holiday.
Whether the presents are stacking up in your house or not, Cindy Lou Who wants to shed light on a Blue Christmas. Who’s Holiday is the exciting invention from playwright Matthew Lombardo (Looped starring Valerie Harper and High with Kathleen Turner). It is a dark, glimpse of the holidays through a character we knew. In it, Lesli Margherita, as a now grown Cindy Lou Who, recounts her days with the Who’s in Whoville to discuss the Grinch, remembered from the Dr. Seuss story.
Cindy Lou Who appears in a trailer in Mount Crumpit, brilliantly designed by David Gallo. If you’re ready for the bright colored lights, Evergreen trees, and paste ups of Santas, it’s all there. So are the cluttered rafters, thin cushions, and cheap chairs inside of Cindy Lou Who’s trailer. Who’s Holiday! is a tragic-comic monologue that’s full of risk, with Margherita meeting every dare. Cindy engages the audience by speaking in couplets.
The dark haired diva – seen in Broadway’s Dames at Sea and as Inez in Zorro (for which she won an Olivier Award) – dons a frizzy blonde wig, designed by Charles LaPointe, for this one-woman show. Year by year, she explains her journey from Whoville to Mount Crumpit. She has extraordinary presence, and isn’t afraid to charm the audience with a song or take up the microphone to bust into rap. Margherita has a broad vocal range, and often reaches into her lower register for a deep growl in this play with music.
Though the set leads you into a dreamy world – complete with an enchanting blue backdrop with projections of light snowfall – the tell-it-like-it-is Cindy Lou Who, brings you right back to her sadder but wiser reality. She doles out the pigs in a blanket, after knocking back a Christmas drink and indulging in a story in a corner full of smoke. Margherita is larger than life, cartoony in shape with a polka dot, crinoline mini dress, high heels, and big bright earrings. She speaks to the heart of the matter, weaving an intricate web with her gift of gab, sharing tales of the ugly times (including a prison stay and an isolated, bitter Winter with few callers).
Holding her 40+ years with poetic justice, she includes tales about Dr. Seuss characters including Morris McGurk, and the characters from One Fish, Two Fish. While the play is not only a lament about gift theft by the Grinch, it does factor into the first ten minutes of the show. Cindy Lou Who then delves into the woes of years past, including her 18+ choice to live a diverse lifestyle, eventually giving birth to a daughter who is part-Grinch. With a glint in her eye, Cindy, in middle-age, becomes a tough cookie, like the women from the musical, Chicago, striking the balance between strong survivor and fallen-down queen. We must understand her innocence in prison after the worst, and her need for comfort in the cold of winter.
Who’s Holiday! is directed by Carl Andress, known for the Charles Busch plays (The Divine Sister, Die! Mommy Die! and The Third Story). The world of the play is made complete with lights by Ken Billington and Jonathan Spencer, and costumes designed by Jess Goldstein. Sound design, with pre-show music by the Eurythmics and RUN-DMC, is by Bart Fasbender.
Eventually, Cindy Lou Who wins the audience, asking them to join in singing a group song. It’s one of those light, uplifting moments in a 60 minute theatrical experience that might make you both laugh and cringe. There is enough ingenuity and sensitivity in this show to make you beam or grimace. Lesli Margherita sparkles, gliding through each moment, eliciting sympathy in every phrase. Her command of the stage is strong and bold. If you, yourself, are approaching the holidays with a delightfully wicked sensibility, Who’s Holiday! is for you.
Who’s Holiday! is running until Dec. 31st in a special engagement at the Westside Theatre Upstairs, located at 407 W 43rd Street in New York City. Don’t miss it.
Who’s Holiday! will play Mondays, Wednesdays through Saturday at 8PM; Saturdays at 2PM, and Sundays at 3PM and 7PM. www.whosholiday.com
Photos: Carol Rosegg