Review: ‘Wanzie’s Orange Blossom Trail “Living Nativity” Christmas Spectacular’
Actor and playwright Michael Wanzie delivers an all-new holiday classic with Wanzie’s Orange Blossom Trail “Living Nativity” Christmas Spectacular. From the mind that brought you Ladies of Eola Heights and Wanzie’s Glittering Star-Studded A Christmas Carol, Wanzie offers up high-camp, variety-show style numbers and an unedited take on the first Christmas.
This unconstrained depiction combines politics, religion and a modern-day twist on the Nativity story but is gingerly handled with smarts and wit. For example, when Blue Starr, who portrays herself during her audition, tosses out tongue-in-cheek and timely jabs at Israel and Parliament House’s Chapter 11 filing, Wanzie calls her out for being “offensive.” She quickly retorts with “Well, you wrote it.”
Living Nativity tells the story of Mrs. Deloris Henderson, played by Rich “Gidget Galore” Kuntz, who first visited the North Orange Blossom trail in 1963 when she honeymooned at both The Wigwam Village Motor Court and The Carolina Moon Cottages. Following the recent unexpected death of her husband, Mrs. Henderson decides to retire from rural Pennsylvania to the Carolina Moon after a 40-year absence. Upon her arrival back in Orlando, she is shocked to discover the Carolina Moon in ruin. She is disgusted at the state of “The Trail,” and vows to dedicate the remainder of her life to “cleaning it up,” quickly establishing The Orange Blossom Trail Beautification Society.
Mrs. Henderson applies for, and is awarded a grant from the Orange County Division of Arts and Cultural Affairs. However, the grant mandates that only persons who live or work along North Orange Blossom Trail may be hired to participate in the Christmas pageant.
Hilarity ensues when a cavalcade of characters show up for auditions, with Michael Wanzie at the helm, attempting to keep his composure among the chaos. Show-stoppers include Doug Ba’aser, reprising his role of “Taffy” from A Tired Old Whore, a pole-dancing Raggedy Andy, and Eric Desnoyers, auditioning as a vagabond, offers an arresting aria and surprisingly somber moment in the show.
Among the deft cast, the Nativity features Starr as “Marilyn Monroe,” Ba’aser as “Joan Crawford” and Kuntz’s “Mrs. Henderson,” portraying “the star(s) of Bethlehem.” Jessica Hoehn, who plays “The Virgin Mary” is comedy and musical gold.
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