Review: ‘The Crater Sisters’ Christmas Special’ at Best Medicine Rep

You can skip your one-hundredth viewing of A Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker this holiday season and, instead, laugh the evening away at the delightfully original musical comedy, The Crater Sisters’ Christmas Special, debuting at Best Medicine Rep.

Rebecca A. Herron (left) and Lori Boyd (right). Photo by Mary Roberds
Rebecca A. Herron (left) and Lori Boyd (right) in The Crater Sisters’ Christmas Special. Photo by Mary Roberds.

The Crater Sisters’ Christmas Special is a world-premiere Christmas musical comedy. Excellently directed by John Morogiello and co-written by Morogiello and cast member Lori Boyd, The Crater Sisters’ Christmas Special is a classic, comedic farce with some unique holiday twists.

Musical star Bella Crater, a one-hit Christmas wonder due to a hit song her sister wrote, is staging her comeback via a live special on a third-rate streaming network. The special is all set to be a holiday wonder….until the entire production staff quits half an hour before the performance due to Bella’s demanding diva behavior. Bella’s frantic assistant, Tara, and Tara’s boyfriend, Frank, find the perfect last-minute solution. If they can convince Bella’s sister, Lucy, to perform in the special, they can save the show. Problems arise since the sisters have been feuding for the past thirty years. Can the group save the Christmas special and maybe even mend the family relationship in time for the holidays?

In a typical sitcom setup, all of the relevant information and setups are provided in Act 1 so we can better enjoy it when everything hysterically falls to pieces in Act 2, the portion of the show which features an excellent spoof of A Christmas Carol during the live TV special.

Rebecca A. Herron sparkles in a commanding performance as the delightfully selfish diva, Bella Crater. Herron displayed a powerful stage presence and an impressive alto belt in many of her solo numbers, such as her opening solo “I’ve Made a Career Out of Christmas.” Her deadpan, growling delivery on many of her punch lines was hysterical and it was spectacular to watch her intentionally not only chew but devour the scenery, whenever Bella Crater was throwing one of her diva temper tantrums or performing rituals to ward off evil spirits.

Bella Crater’s companion performer, her estranged sister, Lucy Crater, was sweetly and slightly more subtly played by Lori Boyd…well, subtle for Act 1 at least. Boyd provides some phenomenal impersonations and a purposefully and delightfully terrible accent when passing for a celebrity (not to be mentioned here so as not to spoil the show). Boyd gave a very touching and sentimental performance, especially in her solo “Before We Were An Act.”

As the neurotic, adorably dorky television assistant, Tara, Claire Derriennic brings some much-needed wit and sarcasm to the story as the only slightly grounded, sensible straight man among the cast of kooky holiday comedians. Her solo in Act 2, “They Tried to Kill Us. They Failed. Let’s Eat!” describing all of the Jewish holidays throughout the year (because as Tara said, “It’s superfluous/But perhaps a plus/That each Christmas special/Has one song for us!”) was a showstopper and a standout comedic moment for Derriennic.

Lori Boyd, Claire Derriennic, and James Morogiello in The Crater Sisters’ Christmas Special. Photo by Mary Roberds.

In the generally female-led holiday show, the true cast standout was the sole male cast member, James Morogiello, as Tara’s boyfriend Frank. Derriennic and Morogiello made a wonderfully believable couple with excellent comedic chemistry. Morogiello displayed some sharp comedic timing in his hysterically over-the-top delivery and versatile performance. His character nuances were adorable and Morogiello delivered the best one-liners in the show. His Act 2 solo “I’m on the Naughty List” was hilariously over the top and displayed his exceptional vocal range. Herron and Morogiello had a hysterically meta-theatrical moment at the top of Act 2 trying to use the famous “Yes…and?” rule of improvisation to try to save the Christmas special…and failing miserably at the task to leave the audience in stitches.

The Christmas comedy is a fun musical featuring many original compositions arranged and musically directed by cast member Lori Boyd. The contrast between traditional Christmas carols and contemporary solos and duets written specifically for the production was nicely achieved. Boyd provided the cast with many excellent, new harmonic arrangements on some of the familiar Christmas chestnuts. Special mention goes to the sparkling yuletide costumes designed by Elizabeth Kemmerer and a warm, simply festive set design by Ali Mark.

To add to the unique theatrical experience, Best Medicine Rep is located in a converted former store on the second floor of a larger shopping mall. Stop by Lakeforest Mall to complete some holiday shopping before or after the show, but be sure to take a break and check into Best Medicine Rep for a delightfully wacky Christmas musical comedy to entertain all ages this holiday season!

Running Time: One hour and 30 minutes, including intermission.

The Crater Sisters’ Christmas Special plays through December 16, 2018, at Best Medicine Rep at Lakeforest Mall – 701 Russell Avenue in Gaithersburg, MD. Purchase tickets at the door or go online.