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Desert Star's 'Bi-Polar Express' jolly fun

Erica Hansen as the villainous Virginia Burger Meister in "Christmas Vacation: The Bi-Polar Express."
Erica Hansen as the villainous Virginia Burger Meister in "Christmas Vacation: The Bi-Polar Express."
Justin Berry, Desert Star Theaters

DESERT STAR'S CHRISTMAS VACATION: THE BI-POLAR EXPRESS, Desert Star Cabaret, Murray, through Jan. 7 (266-2600). Running time: two hours (two intermissions).

MURRAY — You can depend on Desert Star Theaters to put the "fun" in "dysfunctional."

Meet the Baileys, George and Mary. Their names may be the same as the main characters in the beloved 1946 classic, "It's a Wonderful Life," but any similarities end abruptly right there. This Bailey family lives "somewhere in Utah."

The patriarch of the family, the not-so-dearly departed Father Bailey (played by Matthew O'Malley, who also surfaces occasionally as Tommy Bailey), has left his will on video, which the Baileys and their children, Suezu and Tommy, are watching as the show begins.

The video, shown in three parts as the production progresses, explains in great detail the ramifications of not meeting virtually all of Father Bailey's lengthy list of stipulations. First and foremost is that George and Mary must invite their entire extended family home for the holidays — and they have to get along.

A fortune is at stake, along with George's fragile nerves.

There are the usual Desert Star pitfalls and mix-ups. The cast playing on Friday evening included Bob Longoria as the exasperated George Bailey, Jennifer Tanner as his loving sympathetic wife Mary, and Brooklynn Pulver as Suezu, their daughter (although Pulver has a much larger presence as Uncle Roy's soon-to-be ex-wife, LaDean).

George's loony relatives include sister Debralyn (Kerstin Davis), whose family runs a llama fertilizer farm (you can guess where some of these jokes go), and another sister, Virginia Burger Meister (Erica Hansen), a twice-divorced social climber bent on acquiring the entire fortune for herself and her son, Horace (Brian Bahr). Virginia and Horace's shenanigans include an inept attempt to pull off a caper at the Festival of Trees.

Jack Drayton is perfectly cast as Uncle Roy, who announces that he and LaDean are going in different directions. (He's reminded that, at 85, there is really only one direction he is headed.)

The entire cast does a fine job with the comedy, including songs with all new, humorous lyrics.

Sets for this production feature stage-size photographic backdrops, giving the interiors of the Bailey house and the Festival of Trees a slightly more realistic look.

Heidi Strickland, a Desert Star newcomer, is accompanist for the proceedings (trading off with musical director Ben Mayfield). The pianist also has one, very short onstage bit as a homeowner irritated by the Baileys' caroling.

The post-show olio routine had an "Under the Mistletoe-lio" theme, with the cast showcased in a variety of Christmas tunes.

Among the coming onslaught of "Christmas Carols," Desert Star's "Christmas Vacation" provides an entertaining alternative for those seeking something different.


E-mail: ivan@desnews.com