THAT'S CHRISTMAS! CHICAGO'S MERRY MUSICAL, Mandalay Live! at the Shubert Theatre. Sadly, they're right. This glitzy, big-budget, profoundly shallow TV special masquerading as theater, filled to the brim with sticky sentiment, bogus bonhomie, and all the same old carols we grew up with, pretty accurately reflects Christmas American-style, scraped clean of any noneconomic messages the holiday may once have held. Except there are no TV commercials interrupting Todd Johnson's cheery, allegedly comic sketches, so even the show's economic message is blunted.
Perky Sandy Duncan and her cast of dancers, prancers, singers, and shtick belters make it perfectly clear that Christmas is a "special time." But we don't know what we're supposed to do about it, except maybe help Rudolph get his shiny nose back (his light goes out in one skit), hang around the ski lodge nursing a broken leg and singing Christmas carols (I'd swear I saw this skit on an Andy Williams special 20 years ago), or sweetly bitch with a fellow Christmas shopper about how exhausting it is to blow your wad at the mall (how tragic our affluent lives are compared to the cakewalk of the first Christmas). But really, since the show is pitched to absolute vidiots, we're supposed to sit quietly in our seats, stare at the beautiful sets and costumes, and resist the temptation to switch channels every time the show gets old, every 30 seconds on the dot.