ReVision’s All About the SURVIVAL

Anthony Preuster, Samantha Croce, Julia Whary, Spiro Markos, Joe Ronga and Chuck Cataia show us all how it’s done in A CHRISTMAS SURVIVAL GUIDE, the ReVision Theatre production going up December 16-18 at the House of Jazz in Asbury town.

Yes, Virginia, there IS a ReVision Theatre Company — and they ARE putting on a show by the name of A Christmas Survival Guide.

Things, admittedly, were looking a Grinchly shade of grim for the Asbury-based stage troupe over the past several weeks — an interlude that saw the resignation of all three principal partners, the downsizing of its scheduled Xmastravaganza from the Paramount Theater, and the uncertainty surrounding the venue to which the production was relocated. It was enough to Krampus the style of the most devoted Xmas-Phile.

Call it a Christmas miracle if you will; chalk it up to good old “show must go on” gumption, but beginning Friday, December 16 and continuing for five performances through December 18, A Christmas Survival Guide makes its welcome debut on the subterranean stage of The House of Jazz on Lake Avenue — in a production that boasts the participation of several not-so-secret Santas.

Co-director Brett Colby distributes a little holiday magic in advance of A CHRISTMAS SURVIVAL GUIDE.

For those keeping score at home, A Christmas Survival Guide is the hitherto unspecified “family fun holiday show” that was pencilled in for the Paramount proscenium — a tree-star capper to a 2011 season of highs (a sensational Spring Awakening) and largely weather-channeled lows and woes (an opening night washout for Xanadu; a lost Spring weekend on Hurricane Irene’s account).

An ambitious and extended ReVision slate of shows on the Asbury boardwalk (four at the Carousel House; bookended by two at the Paramount) thus presented a bleak financial picture for the company, and Alecia Brooks became the first of the partners to leave the fold following the October run of Little Shop of Horrors.

Speaking to upperWETside inside Antonino’s, the work-in-progress family-style Italian ristorante that she and husband Trip will be opening next year on Cookman Avenue, Brooks filled us in on the subsequent resignation of producing partner David Liedholdt (who has traditionally spent his off-seasons working in Philadelphia), as well as the sudden and unexpected departure from Asbury Park of fellow founder Thomas Morrissey.

(The Brookses, by the way, have a hand in a whole lot of other very intriguing projects around town — and no, we’re sworn to secrecy and can’t furnish details as yet. And yes, we hate ourselves.)

That left Joe Guidetti as spokesman for the ReVision brand, and reached by phone the current president of the company’s board of directors assured us that the troupe is “committed to moving forward.”

“While it was a difficult year weather-wise and financially, we’d love to continue to have a presence on the beach and boardwalk,” Guidetti explained. “Next year will be our fifth season, and in the coming months we’re looking to do our winter Readings from Asbury Park series, with a concert fundraiser sometime in April or May.”

In the meantime, ReVision LIVES, inside the downtown Asbury office space (at Bangs and Bond) to which the company recently moved — and which, along with various private residences has served as rehearsal space for Survival, a “miniature Christmas spectacular” created by James Hindman and Ray Roderick (the team behind The Bikinis, the summertime saltwater-taffy girlgroup jukebox romp premiered by ReVision in 2010).

It all happens in the cabaret-style setting of what was known until recently as Chico’s House of Jazz — itself rebranded following the departure of partner and host Charles “Chico” Rouse Jr. (and surely a story in itself). Previously host venue for comedy events, film screenings and Black Box of Asbury Park theatrical offerings, the room (on the Lake Avenue side of the Shoppes in the Arcade) boasts fine sound and lighting, table seating, bar and kitchen — although we’ll miss those Porta-Potties.

UpperWETside stopped in at the ReVision offices to chat with one of the show’s two directors — Brett Colby, character tenor, comic actor, arts advocate/administrator and an experienced ReVisionary thanks to his Snuggie-swaddled stint as the Narrator in 2010’s Rocky Horror Show. He’s teamed here with veteran board prexy and sometime actor Bob Angelini, who many of you might know as the artistic director at Ocean Township High School — and still others might know as a detective with the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.

Described by Colby as “a very intimate and charming revue,” Survival puts a locally based ensemble of singers and comic specialists — including Samantha Croce, Chuck Cutaia (the “Fucked Up Chuck” of vlog infamy), Spiro Markos, Anthony Preuster, Joe Ronga and Julia Whary —  through a set of “hilarious renditions of familiar Christmas songs” that are performed with an irrreverent twist (a clamorous “Silver Bells” that would have made Spike Jones seek out a quiet corner) or as outright parody (“The Twelve Steps of Christmas”) that compares favorably to Forbidden Broadway.

With the aid and abetment of music director Andy Hertz, the fun is framed as chapters in a fictitious book penned (and peddled, for $39.95) by the show’s narrator, a self-help “expert” whose pertinent life lessons often devolve into numbers like “Santa Claus is Back in Town,” the naughty Elvis b-side performed by Markos in full Kingly regalia.

“Of course, what’s a ReVision show without a bit of interactivity and nudity?” adds Colby. “It’s not TOO dirty…it’s just clean enough to bring the kids along.”

The December 16 opener of A Christmas Survival Guide is close to sold out as we post this; tickets  ($30 seated, $15 standing room, with student discounts available) should be still be available for the 2pm and 7pm shows on Saturday, December 17, as well as the 2pm and 5pm shows on Sunday, December 18. Reserve right here — and keep an eye on the upperWETside for updates as to the ever-evolving goings-on at ReVision Theatre AND the House of Jazz.


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