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SnowGirls, The Musical
by Lauren Emily Whalen

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Playwright: Derek Van Barham ( book ), David Cerda, Scott Lamberty and Jeff Thomson ( music )

At: Mary's Attic, 5400 N. Clark St. Tickets: $20-30; Runs through: Dec. 30

SnowGirls—The Musical is parody at its finest.

The latest world premiere from Chicago favorite Hell in a Handbag productions hits all the right notes. There are many allusions to its original source material Showgirls, the 1995 film that quickly progressed from box-office flop to camp classic. However, the ridiculous nature of SnowGirls, involving pole dancing, erotic coupling and plenty of backstabbing—where the main players are reindeer—makes the world premiere musical hilarious to everyone from Showgirls aficionados to those who have never seen the movie. Director and choreographer Jon Martinez and a stellar cast embrace the silliness as only Hell in a Handbag can, and SnowGirls is one hour and forty-five minutes of raunchy holiday fun.

Boston Conservatory graduate Harper Leander is Snowmi Malone, a reindeer who arrives at the North Pole with stars in her eyes ( at least, when she's not throwing an epic tantrum ). Snowmi quickly befriends kind Santa Claus groupie Jolly ( Brittani Yawn ), who has a job at the hottest theater in town. Can a chance meeting with star Ice Crystal Connors ( Sydney Genco ) get Snowmi out of her seedy strip club gig and into the big leagues?

In the world of SnowGirls, Mrs. Claus ( Erin Daly ) struts around in tight dresses lambasting her alcoholic, impotent spouse, while Rudolph ( Max McKune ) guides the new strippers with a highly suspect and admittedly problematic set of ground rules. ( Hint: they involve keeping Rudolph, er, happy. ) Writer Derek Van Barham is both intimately familiar with the original Showgirls—SnowGirls has Versace jokes aplenty—and smart enough to emphasize the broader aspects of what's essentially a backstage story with more raunch. Music from Scott Lamberty, Jeff Thomson and Handbag artistic director David Cerda is fun and catchy, ranging from Ice Crystal's sultry, profane solos to Snowmi's soulful ballads. Martinez's staging and choreography boasts many callbacks to the original without alienating those who haven't seen it.

SnowGirls' costumes alone are worth the ticket price, thanks to Kate Setzer Kamphausen's penchant for tight-fitting crushed velvet, glittery antlers and platform boots. Though Leander is a far stronger dancer than she is a singer, and perhaps the composers could have better accommodated her limited vocal range and lack of breath support, her Snowmi is a lovely babe in the bawdy woods. Daly's powerful set of pipes and onstage fearlessness are an ideal match for Mrs. Claus, and Grant Drager is sleazy perfection as the scheming Zip, who woos Snowmi with his smooth figure-skating movies.

The show, though, belongs to Genco. Her Ice Crystal Connors would make Gina Gershon proud, from southern-fried dialect to faux-lesbian kisses. Genco moves through every scene as if she owns it, and in fact she does. Even when she's not spouting double entendres, Genco projects everything the character is: once an innocent youth herself who's had to claw her way to the top to survive.

SnowGirls is neither fun for the whole family nor the faint of heart. For adults who love sex jokes and Christmas, it's a spectacular way to escape family members or treat visiting friends. Prepare yourself for reindeer nipples, sultry kicks and sociopathy—SnowGirls and its scheming protagonists are here to stay.

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