An evening of unsurpassed holiday cheer in ‘The 13th Annual Joe Iconis Christmas Extravaganza’ at NYC’s 54 Below

After a three-year pandemic hiatus, the supremely talented, incomparably funny, and emotionally insightful Joe Iconis is back at 54 Below with a cast of more than 50 members of his intrepid musical theater family for The 13th Annual Joe Iconis Christmas Extravaganza, playing six shows that you should have gotten tickets for the second they were announced. Yes, it sells out that fast, because, yes, it’s that sensational, so be sure to keep your eyes open for the 2024 14th edition and grab them while you can, for a night of wild celebration, unmatched originality, and heartfelt camaraderie (among the company and with the audience) that you’ll never forget.

Joe Iconis and members of the band. Photo by Ray Costello.

Written by Iconis and directed by John Simpkins, the two-and-a-half-hour non-stop production is not your usual cabaret concert. It combines traditional yuletide carols and holiday songs from around the world (some with new arrangements and reimagined lyrics to suit the theme and mood), seasonal pop, rock, and country hits, and original numbers by Iconis (including works created just for the show), with a different look at iconic characters and “critters” from religion and popular culture (in spot-on hilarious costumes by Brendan McCann), zany reworked borrowings from Christmas classics of the stage and screen, insider jokes about the shows, stars, and critics of NYC theater, devilish language, sexual innuendo, and an irreverent take on sacred protocol and political correctness, in a riotously bold and imaginative self-referencing narrative that kept the packed house screaming with laughter, singing and clapping along, connected to the performers (who move around the room and interact with the crowd), and ecstatic to be a part of it all.

Joe Iconis, Will Roland, and company. Photo by Deb Miller.

This year’s installment features special guest star Annie Golden as the foul-mouthed Christmas Angel who introduces and closes the play-within-a-concert (following some pre-show caroling and handing out of candy by members of the company), and a changing roster of triple threats (depending on their availability for each of the six performances) – Sara Al-Bazali, Philippe Arroyo, Nick Blaemire, Liz Lark Brown, Chad Burris, Gerard Canonico, Harrison Chad, Bill Coyne, Laura Dadap, Giovanny Diaz de Leon, Katrina Rose Dideriksen,  Rick Edinger, John El-Jor, Vince Fazzolari, Andrew Barth Feldman, Kalonjee Gallimore, Omar Garibay, Drew Gehling, Danielle Gimbal, Morgan Siobhan Green, Van Hughes, Ian Kagey, Lorinda Lisitza, Lauren Marcus, Julia Mattison, Kelly McIntyre, Jeremy Morse, Kevin Michael Murphy, Allison Philips, Josh Plotner, Sam Primack, Will Roland, Charlie Rosen, Mike Rosengarten, Jackie Sanders, MiMi Scardulla, Brooke Shapiro, Helen J Shen, A.J. Shively, Noah Silverman, Lena Skeele, Murphy Taylor Smith, Philip Jackson Smith, Brent Stranathan, Jax Terry, Vinnie Urdea, Tatiana Wechsler, Jared Weiss, Jason SweetTooth Williams, and Ayssa Wray – along with Iconis on piano, vocals, and meta-theatrical direct-address asides and reactions.

Joe Iconis, Lauren Marcus, Jason SweetTooth, and members of the band. Photo by Deb Miller.

The wacky characters include a pregnant Cockney ragamuffin (Marcus, who is really expecting, pulls up her tattered top, and shows it), the vain theatrical producer Cyril Von Miserthorpe (Roland, affecting an uppity accent and attitude), Flashback Joe (Feldman, recounting traumatic memories of Christmas past and his hill-jack family back in Jackalope Holler, West Virginia – though Iconis is actually from Long Island), and a drunken Mrs. Claus (Lisitza smoking and slugging down a bottle). They sing, dance (to the lively choreography of Christine O’Grady and Jennifer Werner, including a Chippendale-style “Santa Baby” led by Liz Lark Brown), enact the sidesplitting scenes, and never fail to deliver the eccentric humor, true friendship and admiration for one another, and all-embracing love of what they do and the fans they’re doing it for, who return the joy (well, all except for one audience member Joe tells us about, who didn’t seem to get into the over-the-top shenanigans at all).

Lorinda Lisitza and company. Photo by Deb Miller.
Liz Lark Brown and company. Photo by Ray Costello.

The twenty-two songs, medleys, and scenes end with three knockouts that leave everyone wanting more: Williams’ stirring rendition of Iconis’s profoundly affecting “The Goodbye Song” from the TV series Smash, backed by the company and never failing to leave me holding my heart in my hand, with eye make-up running down my face; Golden’s rocking Angel performance of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” with a sly nod to the line “happy golden days of yore;” and the upbeat full-cast closer “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” Iconis’s own professed holiday favorite, written by Jeff Barry, Elle Greenwich, and Phil Spector, and popularized by my “Queen of Christmas” Darlene Love, which had the whole audience joining in, feeling the spirit of community that is Joe Iconis, then covered in confetti raining down from above.

Lauren Marcus and Jason SweetTooth Williams. Photo by Ray Costello.

Also enhancing the show were colorful lighting by KJ Hardy, sound by Amanda Raymond, and a too-much-is-never-enough Dollar Store haul of decorations, ornaments, tinsel, and wrapped gift boxes, all making for the most joyous event you could ever imagine. But you don’t have to, thanks to Joe Iconis and family; it’s all there at 54 Below for you to enjoy. I’m still singing along, smiling, and wishing I could be there for every performance.

Running Time: Approximately two hours and 25 minutes, without intermission.

The 13th Annual Joe Iconis Christmas Extravaganza plays through Sunday, December 10, 2023, at 7 and 11 pm, at 54 Below, 254 West 54th Street, cellar, NYC. For tickets (priced at $40-133.50, including fees, plus a $25 food/beverage minimum per person), call (646) 476-3551, or go online.


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