A Very Die Hard Christmas

by Harker Jones

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday December 14, 2017

A Very Die Hard Christmas

When John McTiernan's "Die Hard" was released in the summer of 1988, it turned Bruce Willis from a TV star into a movie star, was the major introduction of Alan Rickman to essentially the entire world, and it spawned four sequels, six video games, a comic book series and this musical parody. In the decades since, it's widely considered one of the best action films ever made and has become a beloved holiday film as well.

The setup: When New York City cop John McClane (Wade Wilson) comes out to Los Angeles to visit his estranged wife, Holly (Kirť Horton), in Los Angeles for Christmas he has the luck to be there when terrorists take over her office building.

It's a simple premise, and director Gregory Crafts gets high energy and big laughs at every turn. Much of the fun is the interplay between smug, fey head terrorist Hans (Jim Martyka) and McClane, but everyone in the cast pops. Horton is broad and warm and funny. Carey Matthews, Liesl Jackson, and Matt Pick all get to play a variety of characters, all over the top but perfectly in synch with the vibe of the show. They're fantastic comic relief, which is hard to come by and harder to pull off without relying on simple buffoonery.

Robby DeVillez, however, is the show's MVP, playing everything from a talking mouse to one of the German terrorists to a singing snowman a la Burl Ives in the television special "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer." He even sings Ives' chestnut "A Holly Jolly Christmas" reworked as "A Very Die Hard Christmas."

The show is reminiscent of the "For the Record" and "Unauthorized Musical Parodies Of" series at Rockwell in Los Feliz, but while those are more jukebox musicals, this is less that and more full-on spoof. It's a loving, self-aware send-up of a venerated film, which includes a handful of silly pop songs, including a lampoon of Mariah Carey's classic "All I Want for Christmas Is You"; Hans' exposition of his evil plan to destroy an LA skyscraper sung to Alvin and the Chipmunks' "The Chipmunk Song"; and a duet of "Baby, It's Cold Outside," between John and Hans.

To add to the uproarious and inspired silliness, there are countless jokes about '80s technology, a Hermey doll (the elf who wants to be a dentist in "Rudolph") playing a terrorist conveniently named Hermey, and Yukon Cornelius (from the same TV special) as the LA police chief.

Choreographer Lindsay Anne Braverman and fight choreographer J. Anthony McCarthy make fantastic use of the stage. There's almost nothing on it, so the actors use props and the empty space to attack, assault and dance. There are some raunchy jokes, some salty language and some stagey violence, but it's all so extravagant it never seems harsh. The only minor issue is that there were times when the recorded music drowned out the singers, but just a bit. And if you sit in the front row, be forewarned: you may be chosen to go on stage to play Holly's boss.

Even if you don't know the movie, the show is a riot. Just be advised that the theater is located on a side street in North Hollywood on the second level of a church. It's not difficult to find, but it may be difficult to spot once you're on the grounds. Signs help point the way.

"A Very Die Hard Christmas" runs Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays through December 17 at the Belfry Stage, Upstairs at the Crown, 11031 Camarillo Street, North Hollywood, CA 91602. For information and reservations, call 818-849-4039 or visit TheatreUnleashed.org.