Wreck the Halls

By Richard Schultz, January 2016 Issue.

Cabaret performances are commonplace in most major metro markets like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Locally, multitalented theater artist Ian Christiansen is determined to bring this sassy and witty performance style to the Valley.

Wreck the Halls, his latest mischievous musical romp, pokes fun at all things merry and bright in a special blend of cabaret meets rock, pop, jazz and musical theater Dec. 30 at Crescent Ballroom.

“It’s just the thing for shedding Christmas … and get[ting] ready to ring in the New Year,” Christiansen said.

According to Christiansen, his song lineup usually comes from a diverse range of genres. For a cabaret experience, think of a nightclub setting infused with the flair and bravado of musical theatre.

“We like to put a personal thumbprint on well-known classics, and present them in a new way for a more intimate audience,” he said. “We usually pick a theme for a show and then pick material and songs accordingly. For our holiday show, we have a lot of flexibility because it falls between Christmas and New Years. So we can do anything from a parody version of ‘12 Days of Christmas’ to ‘Best Thing I Never Had’ by Beyoncé.”

With Wreck the Halls, in particular, Christiansen is focused on both the good and the bad about the holidays, and said he hopes the audience will see the show as a way to get ready for the New Year by raising a glass to what’s ahead.

“The LGBTQ community certainly has plenty to celebrate, especially with the strides this year in gay rights,” he said. “Cabaret allows us to come together and have a damn good time. We pride ourselves on being resilient, witty, intelligent and somewhat sophisticated smart asses. As a performer, the show is how I personally get to express my own stake in being part of the community. Being on stage is like being at home for me.”

In addition to Christiansen, Alanna Kalbfleisch guest stars with accompaniment by the D.K. Trio, led by musical virtuoso Dan Kurek.

“Originally, the show started with me and my pianist, Dan Kurek,” Christiansen said. “Dan has an outstanding background in musical direction for numerous Valley theaters. He is also classically trained in opera. He’s a versatile musician who can do anything from transposing by sight to putting together complicated mashups. I wouldn’t trade him for anything! We’ve been together since the beginning and we’re going to keep going that way.”

“I have been having a lot of fun writing parody songs this past year,” he said.

According to Christiansen, the ‘holigay’ section of the show will include some of his Disney parodies, which have been used in the Dirty Disney show.

Parodies will include “Feed Their Heads,” (based on “Feed the Birds” from Mary Poppins), which he describes as a song “about gays’ incessant need to post shirtless pics on Facebook.” There’s also “Once Upon a Screen,” based on “Once Upon a Dream” from Sleeping Beauty, which details the pitfalls of online dating.

Interestingly, Christiansen is a former illustrator for Disney, which may have fueled his unique spin on classic movie tunes.

“I’m really interested in exploring some nods to Star Wars and “Golden Girls” in the show, as they are two of my particular areas of fan-dom,” he said.

Christiansen has performed on stages throughout the Valley, from Phoenix Theatre to Arizona Opera. He’s a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama and currently teaches theater at Arizona School for the Arts.

Having transplanted here from New York and being a stage actor, Christiansen asked himself the question, “Why don’t they have a cabaret here?”

As a result, he’s performed cabaret for the past six years, starting at My Florist Café and later at the Ghost Lounge at Hotel San Carlos (both of which are now defunct). Additionally, he believes that bringing his show to the Crescent Ballroom stage will reach a new audience and create a new enthusiasm for the genre.

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