This season, the Kansas City Repertory Theatre has added a second show to their holiday schedule. The Santaland Diaries is a dark comedy written by David Sedaris and adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello. The one-man show is a prickly retelling of Sedaris’ stint as a Macy’s elf during the Christmas season.
Brian Sills stars as Crumpet who observes and narrates the holiday antics with a jaded eye and a sharp tongue. Sills was last with the Rep in 2011 as the Master of Ceremonies in the production of Cabaret. Sills says that the role of Crumpet is a departure from the smoldering emcee in Cabaret.
“Just in contrast to the last thing I did in this theater, which was the emcee. It was kind of fun and sexy and dark,” says Sills. “I wore this great fitted suit. I felt quite good about myself in that outfit. This role is the complete opposite end of the spectrum this time, but I love it. “
A new holiday tradition
“We are hoping that we are starting a new tradition. That there will be a holiday party at Copaken Stage every Christmas,” says Jerry Genochio, director of The Santaland Diaries. “Christmas songs will be sung in an irreverent way before the show, then Santaland, and then the party continues back in the lobby with The Shenanigans (with Clay Elder and Shanna Jones) and Brian singing with them too.”
A role that is familiar to many
“So many people are familiar with David Sedaris,” says Brian Sills, as Crumpet the elf. “He has a very specific tone and he is so funny and so brilliant and sardonic, a bit dark and amazing. So, just like the emcee, (in Cabaret) I didn’t want to do an impression of anybody, including David Sedaris, which is why I actually, I sort of steered clear of listening to any recordings of it. I heard it first, like everybody, on NPR listening to the broadcast of Santaland Diaries, but I haven’t listened to it in quite a long time.”
A different look at Christmas
“It’s another look at Christmas that we all can connect with because we’ve all had those other experiences at Christmas that hasn’t warmed our hearts, and we’ve all had that one terrible job because we were totally lost and had no money," Genochio says, with a laugh. “Yes, we can all relate.”
‘You simply have to tell the story’
“It’s really just a simple conversation, well, it’s a surreal conversation,” Sills says. “I strive to keep it as intimate as I can and as conversational as I can. Because the great thing about Sedaris is that you don’t have to do much. You simply have to tell he truth, tell the story.
"It’s kind of great because he (Sedaris) will put something bizarre in front of you and go ‘plunk, how about that,’ And he doesn’t even comment on it he just goes, so that happened and he just sort of walks away and moves on to the next thing and you are sort of sit grappling with it going ‘What? Really?’”
A complement to A Christmas Carol
“The biggest thing for us producing this play was it’s the first time we’ve produced A Christmas Carol while producing something else at the same time,” says Genochio. “We were thinking could we offer another holiday selection at Copaken Stage that would complement A Christmas Carol, but not compete, that would be something a little bit different. We all thought instantly that Santaland Diaries was a fantastic idea. It’s just a nice, irreverent piece that has some heart and also has some not-so-family-oriented material.”
On wearing the elf suit
“Oh my gosh! The suit is amazing, designed by Clint Ramos. Custom-made, just for my little body,” Sills says. ”It’s kind of awesome. I’ve never had an elf suit made for me. And the shoes. Not only are they amazing to look at, but they are also super comfortable. I could totally walk around in these and be quite content.”
Kansas City Repertory Theatre presents The Santaland Diaries Nov. 29th - Dec. 24th, at the Copaken Stage, 1 H and R Block Way, Kansas City, Mo. 816-235-2700.
The "In This Scene..." series is supported by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.