ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar
Hell in a Handbag Productions Presents
The World Premiere of
THE RIP NELSON HOLIDAY
By Artistic Director David Cerda
Directed and Choreographed by Stevie Love
Now Streaming Through January 9, 2021
Grant Drager as Bing Crosby, Sydney Genco as Vampira, Tyler Anthony Smith as Bernadette Peters and David Lipschutz as Doug Henning in a publicity image forHell in a Handbag Productions’ world premiere of The Rip Nelson Holiday Quarantine Special. All Photos by Rick Aguilar Studios.
(*Virtual General Admission $15.00 +$2.55 Fee. Choose your amount to donate as all monies got to Groceryland in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago)
By Bonnie Kenaz-Mara
H... E... double toothpicks. H... E... double holiday shows. Yes, the intrepid drag queens, singers and comedians of Chicago's Hell in a Handbag have just the pill for your quarantine ills. They have not one, but two holiday shows now streaming and the best news is neither one is A Christmas Carol! Make it a double.
I invited a friend over for the press opening of The Rip Nelson Holiday Quarantine Special, and though we were masked and 6 feet apart, things almost felt normal. It was fun ChiILin' in Chi, IL in my heated back yard tent, getting my holiday Hell in a Handbag Productions fix, streaming another David Cerda original, projected on a 10' screen. I could almost see the steep, creaking stairs to the cozy confines of Mary's Attic, and taste the martinis. On the bright side, audience members don't have to make it to Chicago anymore to experience Hell in a Handbag's unique brand of hilarity. They've been at it for 18 years now, and aren't about to let a little thing like a worldwide pandemic stop the fun.
The Rip Nelson Holiday Quarantine Special is a brand new production, perfect for all the adults out there who've spent the last 9 months in quarantine exhausting everything on Netflix and cable and are about to resort to DIY puppet shows with their pandemic snacks, in desperation for something new. This green screen extravaganza is a welcome relief from the flood of Zoom theatre productions now streaming and allowed for lots of creative backgrounds, and even an exaggerated hourglass figure for Vampira. It is the darkest time of the year after all, and what's a holiday special without a touch of the macabre? The only ghosts of Christmas past are dead celebrities, and this 70's style variety show lineup is capably and campily played by a host of Handbag regulars.
Coming along for the strange ride is Rip’s stage manager Tony (Michael S. Miller*) and his line-up of celebrity guests: Bing Crosby (Grant Drager*), David Cassidy (Nicky Mendelsohn), Shari Lewis and Lambchop (Caitlin Jackson*), Ella Fitzgerald (Robert Williams*), Charlton Heston (Michael Rashid*), Bernadette Peters (Tyler Anthony Smith*), Vampira (Sydney Genco*), Quentin Crisp (Danne W. Taylor*) Lucie Arnaz (Alexa Castelvecchi), and her mother, Lucille Ball (David Cerda*) – or at least that’s who Rip thinks they are.
The wacky plot is a kitschy nod to the star laden holiday shows of the past, with a dose of covid angst, and a Wizard of Oz twist at the end. This is a show best served to an all adult audience with copious amounts of booze and/or edibles.
RipNelson-1 (left to right)Alexa Castelvecchi as Lucie Arnaz,David Cerda as Lucille Ball andEd Jonesas Rip Nelson in a publicity image forHell in a HandbagProductions’ world premiere of The Rip Nelson Holiday Quarantine Special. Photo by Rick Aguilar Studios.
Sure, quarantine times are strange, and we miss live theatre passionately, but till we can safely meet again, we suggest this double feature as a fun alternative and a great way to forget about 2020 for a few hours. Highly recommended!
(left to right)Tyler Anthony Smith as Bernadette Peters andNicky Mendelsohn as David Cassidy.
Bonnie Kenaz-Mara is a Chicago based writer-theater critic-photographer-videographer-actress-artist-general creatrix and Mama to two terrific teens. She owns two websites where she publishes frequently: ChiILLiveShows.com (adult) & ChiILMama.com (family friendly).
Hell in a Handbag Productions celebrates the holidays with the return of America’s favorite funnyman, Rip Nelson (Ed Jones*), in the star-studded world premiere of The Rip Nelson Holiday Quarantine Special, streaming through January 9, 2021 via Vimeo. The world premiere is written by Artistic Director Cerda* and directed and choreographed by Stevie Love*, with music and lyrics by David Cerda and Scott Lamberty. Tickets ($25) are currently available at handbagproductions.org or stage773.com. The show streams at designated performance times (see schedule below).
It’s 2020 and Rip is in the hospital after an ill-advised gig on a Pride cruise. Rip’s devoted make-up woman and confidante Gladys (Lori Lee*), is worried sick, but Rip is more upset that Ryan Seacrest is taking over as host of his annual television holiday special! Rip’s not going to let anything, including the overbearing Nurse Ursula (Terry McCarthy*), stop him from being on that show! A determined Rip makes it to the studio with a little help from trippy magician, Doug Henning (David Lipschutz*) and soon finds himself in his weirdest television special ever.
“Our production will be filmed in a large warehouse combining a physical set and green screen techniques to ensure the safety of the cast and crew,” comments playwright and Artistic Director David Cerda. “Many people look forward our holiday shows with a combination of absurd humor and heart. This show provides both – and addresses trying to stay sane in 2020.”
Thursdays and Friday at 8 pm
Saturdays at 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm
Sundays at 3 pm
Please note: shows stream at designated performances times. There will be an added performance on Wednesday, December 23 at 8 pm; there will not be a performance on Friday, January 1 (New Year’s Day).
The production team includes Peter Neville/Image Control Unit* (filming and editing), Pamela Parker* (scenic and props design), Liz Cooper (lighting design), Beth Laske Miller (costume design), Sydney Genco (make-up design), Jabberwocky Productions (puppetry), Keith Ryan* (wig design), Michael Rashid* (production manager) and Drew Donnelly* (stage manager).
*Denotes Handbag ensemble members and artistic associates
(pictured)David Cerda as Lucille Ball
About the Artists
David Cerda (Playwright, Music & Lyrics) is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Hell in a Handbag Productions, now in its 18th year. As the resident playwright, his plays include POSEIDON! An Upside-Down Musical, Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer, Caged Dames, Christmas Dearest, Sexy Baby, Lady X- The Musical, The Drag Seed, and many more. Cerda was in inducted into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame in 2016 and received an honorary lifetime Jeff Award in 2017 for his contribution to Chicago theatre.
Stevie Love (Director/Choreographer) most recently played Nonnie in Hell a Handbag’s Poseidon! and Annie/Shelly in Evil Dead the Musical (Black Button Eyes Productions) which earned a 2019 Jeff Award nod for Supporting Actor. Other credits (directing, choreography, acting): Disney Cruise Lines, Steppenwolf Garage, Northlight Theatre, Ensemble Theatre Company, Pride Films and Plays, National Pastime Theater, Red Tape Theater, The New Colony, and many Handbag shows (notably: Helen in MIRACLE! which garnered Jeff and BroadwayWorld Award nominations).
Scott Lamberty (Music) is a composer, arranger, sound designer and audio engineer who has
been bringing sound and music to the Chicago theater scene since the early 1990s. He has written and produced musical scores for more shows than he can count including The Bad Seed The Musical and The Passion Follies at Corn Productions; and POSEIDON! An Upside Down Musical, The Birds and Rudolph The Red-Hosed Reindeer at Hell in a Handbag Productions. His work as an audio engineer has included the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera, Chicago a capella, Music of the Baroque and the Elgin Symphony Orchestra. He is the recording engineer for the Ravinia Steans Music Institute.
About Hell in a Handbag Productions
Hell in a Handbag is dedicated to the preservation, exploration, and celebration of works ingrained in the realm of popular culture via theatrical productions through parody, music and homage. Handbag is a 501(c)(3) Not for Profit. For additional information, visit handbagproductions.org.