Each summer, Broadway in Chicago gives the city a gift: a free concert at Millennium Park that showcases a song or two from each of the shows that will be stopping in Chicago that season. The 2014 summer concert featured stars from 14 shows. But one guy, Dee Snider, the former frontman for the heavy metal rockers Twisted Sister, stole the show with his preview of the world premiere of his Christmas show, Dee Snider’s Rock and Roll Christmas Tale.
So it was that I was looking forward to seeing the show, playing at Chicago’s Broadway Playhouse through Jan. 4, 2015. The show shines when Snider plays the frontman. Sadly, he is onstage for only a small portion of the show.
The tale tells of the troubles of a Twisted-Sister-like metal band (the costumes are a shining star) that still hasn’t made it after 20 years of trying. So, like any good rocker would, they sell their souls to Satan in return for fame and fortune. Or has a spelling-challenged lead singer led them to sell their souls to someone else?
Snider as Frontman
Snider, who wrote the show, acts as narrator and, when the need arises, exorcist (uses a Nutcracker to banish the bad guy). When he’s on stage, the show seemed to naturally raise a notch. When he was offstage, the energy almost visibly waned, not something one wants from what should be a head-banging show.
On stage at the summer concert, Snider offered a glimpse of the show and its kitschy hook: When the rockers tried to rock, their efforts invariably devolve into rock versions of sappy Christmas songs. Who ever realized that the Twisted Sister anthem “We’re Not Gonna Take It” could morph so easily into “O’ Come All Ye Faithful?” When Snider did that during the summer concert, it was a delight. When the rockers in “Dee Snider’s Rock and Roll Christmas Tale” do it, it is confusing.
My husband, a musician who did not see the summer concert, was much more taken with the show. It left me wondering whether having seen Snider on stage simply set my expectations too high. Scott liked the overall good natured spirit of the whole thing—not something one would expect from heavy metal frontman.
A Sound Finale
The show starts slow, but builds to a win when the real reason for the Christmas songs crossover is revealed. (Spoiler alert: What’s the difference between Satan and Santa? A misplaced “n” that can cause a rocker to sell his soul to Santa.)
It’s a 90-minute romp with 50 minutes of lackluster followed by fun, Christmas-themed plot twist and a kick-ass finale when Snider finally does what he does best—fronts the band and belts out a song.
If you’re looking for something new this Christmas, consider Dee Snider’s Rock and Roll Christmas Tale. But go for the cheap seats. The Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place is a small venue and there are no bad seats. Better yet, look for half-price tickets at HotTix.com. I will be surprised if the show sells out regularly.