After four years of annual shows at the now-defunct MCL Chicago, Yippee-Ki-Yay, Merry Christmas! A Die Hard Musical Parody has taken over the Den Theatre in Wicker Park. There’s plenty to enjoy in the adventures of Bruce McClane (Bill Gordon) as he battles terrorists across the many floors of L.A.’s Nakatomi Plaza and tries to protect his estranged wife, Holly Generic (Caitlyn Cerza), with help from L.A.P.D. officer Carl Winslow (Terrance Lamonte Jr.). But the show’s bigger and better new digs are a mixed blessing. What might have seemed charmingly lo-fi before now sometimes comes off as just amateurish. Scrappiness is hard to scale up.
As in the original movie, the villains steal the show. You can fake your way around a Bruce Willis impersonation, but you can’t do the same for Alan Rickman: His acidic diction demands utter precision, which is what actor Gary Fields delivers as the posh, fashion-obsessed terrorist Hans Olo. In a nice touch, his chief sidekick, Klaus, has been turned into a stupendously dumb blonde, played by Erin Long with gleeful, glassy-eyed aplomb. Nate Curlott also earns laughs as F.B.I. agent Johnson, whom Yippee Ki-Yay, Merry Christmas! renders as a macho Reaganite nightmare bro. Backed by heavy-metal riffs and a swarm of American flags, Curlott enters the fray with the show’s strongest musical number (and the character’s limited stage time prevents his shouty shtick from wearing out its welcome).
Michael Shepherd Jordan, Alex Garday and Stephanie McCullough have stuffed their script with period references to subjects like shoulder pads, cocaine, Schwarzenegger, Fleetwood Mac and the acting career of Reginald VelJohnson. Too often, pop-culture shoutouts stand in for jokes, but the show gains momentum as it goes along. Yippee Ki-Yay Merry Christmas! isn’t high art, but you probably shouldn’t expect high art from a Die Hard musical parody. Contact-high art will probably do the trick.
The Den Theatre. By Michael Shepherd Jordan, Alex Garday and Stephanie McCullough. Directed by Tiffani Moore Swalley. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission.