Blast of Cheer

Oregon Cabaret Theatre's "Cabaret Christmas," with Kymberli Colbourne, Natasha Harris, Christopher George Patterson and Paul Wrona, is a major blast of cheer. A little corny — but mostly cheery. Sometimes the show is too hip, such as when the drunk lady (Harris) sings of how she butchered all the animals from "The Twelve Days of Christmas," but one has to laugh at that, too.

"Cabaret Christmas" shows at 8 p.m. nightly — except Dec. 24 and 25 — through Saturday, Dec. 31. Matinees will be presented at 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, except Dec. 25.

The two-hour show will keep you smiling. Its opening song, "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year," is a classic all pepped up to work in the realities of traffic, panic, last-minute gifts, craziness, trying to get families together and stressing out. It's all so true: Why do we do this?

The show cuts through all the stress, spending and shopping of the holidays, and it helps us start the new year. It reminds us of what can get lost in all the shopping, which is the love we feel for our family and friends.

We have to do this — this insane, mass ritual of Christmas. We also have to take a break from the madness, and that's what "Cabaret Christmas" is all about. Take a rest, laugh, toss back some wine and realize that everyone else is struggling to reach the brass ring of jolly cheer.

But then, suddenly the magic moment appears, and the folks at OCT bring it with a carol or two, opening the second act with a holiday sing-along that is not a send-off, just some singers at the piano inviting the audience to join in such tunes at "Silver Bells," "Jingle Bells," "White Christmas" and "Let It Snow."

I swear when you hear that line in "Silver Bells" — "It's Christmas Time in the City" — you want to choke up, hug strangers and open your mouth to join a throaty chorus. OCT captures the magic of this moment.

Then, Patterson and Colbourne break into "Baby, It's Cold Outside," probably the only truly sexy carol in existence. It's a playful and darling conversation between about-to-be lovers, coming from the hard days of the Great Depression and warming us up to wintertime snuggling.

Patterson masterfully acts out the maddening scene at the oversold airline counter in "I'll Be Home for Christmas." Oh, the mania of trying to be with family for the holidays.

He also tap-dances "Swingin' Santa" in a zoot suit. Very cool. It alone is worth the ticket price.

Add to that a great skit that spoofs "The X-Files" with Harris and Wrona interpreting Santa's sleigh as a UFO, invading the land to brainwash kids. Too funny.

All of the show's skits roll on with amazing energy, cheer and genius. Wrona plays a lonely character who finds comfort in his 750 Facebook friends (a scene we all know too well), receiving "holiday letters" in which friends sum up their year with a happy face — but one can read between the lines. There also are some deeply touching moments, such as when Colbourne's character muses over her grandmother's love letters.

Just being at OCT, still going beautifully after a quarter-century, is such a precious and quintessential Ashland moment with great food and an ambience from a parallel dimension — a better one. It ties yule together with a nice, happy bow around it.

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