If Chevy Chase’s character in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” is the gauge for festive enthusiasm and cheer, then I can comfortably say, I am next level. I just love Christmas. I revel in the tackiness of the tinsel and the extravagance and drama of the big day. With that said, outside “Home Alone” and “Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”, which are clearly classics, my expectations for Christmas entertainment, are pretty low. This is of course because Christmas is already wonderfully entertaining. With this in mind and despite its flaws, Mel & Peppy’s Twisted Christmas Special was in two words, pretty delightful.
First and foremost, cabaret is a wonderful way to spend an evening and after a few beverages, you’d be a real Grinch not to get on board. Mel & Peppy’s Twisted Christmas Special was a collection of some of Western culture’s most cherished Christmas songs with, in many cases, new and improved lyrics to suit an Australian audience. For instance, the one-horse open sleigh of “Jingle Bells” became the rusty Holden Ute at a scorching suburban Aussie Christmas Day. The new lyrics, particularly those sung by Peppy, were very well written.
Mel and Peppy were accompanied by a host of supporting acts and some very enthusiastic backup dancers. I didn’t think there were any standouts in the supporting acts and I wasn’t entirely sure how they fit in the big picture of the overarching narrative. Of the duo, Peppy Smears undoubtedly stole the show. Not only was the quality of his voice sensational but also his comic timing had a hilarious apathy to it, not to mention his piano skills were undoubtedly impressive. Although not a great thought to be contemplating during a two-person show, I began to wonder what a one-man Peppy show would look like and how much I would like to be in attendance. Peppy’s makeup, costume and stage presence were all highlights of this show.
My criticisms are largely to do with polish and structure. The duo frequently stomped one another with lines and when it happened, it was clunky. It made me wonder how much rehearsal time they’d had. The structure of the story was ultimately muddled and anything that occurred character-wise didn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense and thus, felt cumbersome. Any attempts at character development, didn’t work. Mel was also too petulant for my taste and was in parts, unbearably screechy. On this though, and in her defence, the sound at the venue didn’t serve the performers and quite often, I was turning to my cabaret date to ask what was said, despite the volume. The duo’s relationship wasn’t particularly well defined and this was one of the main downfalls of the show for me. They would frequently get angry at one another but it seemed unnecessary and just incorporated as conflict for conflict’s sake.
Apart from the aforementioned, there isn’t much else to say. The voices were great, the new lyrics were great and Peppy was a standout performer. I thoroughly enjoyed my evening and the show ignited my childlike enthusiasm for the countdown before the frivolity and wonder of Christmas Day. I think we can safely say I’m firmly in the target audience for a show like Mel and Peppy’s Twisted Christmas Special. If you’re not one to deck the halls, you’re just going to bring the rest of us down and this one won’t be for you. I sincerely hope there will be a second iteration of this twisted Christmas special next year.