Theater Review - Season's bleatings

Ditch the kids and rock out with Krampus at 7 Stages

Hollywood may have just discovered Krampus, but here in Atlanta the evil Christmas character has had his own holiday show for several years. Of course, the alternative, adults-only spectacle takes place in Little Five Points, where you're not likely to find productions of A Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker. After all, there's only so much family fun one can stomach during the holiday season. While Hollywood has jumped on board the Krampus train with two different movies featuring the creepy character, 7 Stages is happy to be on trend.

For the uninitiated, it's simple: If Santa is the good guy on your shoulder telling you to "Be good, for goodness's sake," imagine Krampus perched on the other shoulder, growling in a German accent, "Be bad, so I can punish you."

Andrew McGill, a local performer, writer, and director who has been part of 7 Stages' Krampus Xmas crew since the original anti-Christmas production seven years ago, notes that the Hollywood buzz has helped with the promotion of this production as well. "I need to thank them for the free advertising. Now everyone knows who Krampus is," he says. Initially, the 7 Stages group faced some difficulties in promoting the event and explaining that Krampus is not just a German version of Santa Claus. "He's a strange, obscure, demented character, and the show is absolutely not for the young ones." While Santa tends to reward well-behaved children, Krampus is more focused on punishing the naughty list, and his appearance is horror-movie ready, with goat horns and hooves and a tongue Gene Simmons would envy. Basically, you don't want your toddler sitting on Krampus' lap.

However, there will be plenty to entertain the adults in the audience. Every year, the group creates a new story placing the Krampus character in a fish-out-of-water scenario, and this year Krampus will star in "a Scooby Doo-esque murder mystery," McGill says. We can only hope that Phyllis Diller and the Harlem Globetrotters make an appearance. The intermission will also be entertaining, with burlesque performers from Syrens of the South and local aerialists offering additional entertainment. "We definitely try to bring in a lot of acts that don't get a lot of limelight; fringe entertainment which would never be in a Christmas show," McGill says, noting that they are proud to be known as "the Island of Misfit Toys of Christmas shows."

Creating a new production every year is a very hands-on, collaborative experience. "The first couple of weeks after the show, we are high on Krampus magic," McGill says. He began writing this year's show in earnest around June. While he is the sole author this year, everyone pitches in and many involved wear several different hats. McGill performs as well. "Even if I try to get away from it, they always find a place for me. But really, if I was not on stage, I would feel bad." Krampus himself will be portrayed this year by Jed Drummond, who was originally a sound technician in an earlier incarnation of the show.

While A Christmas Horror Story may feature William Shatner fighting Krampus, and the eponymous Krampus features some tried-and-true horror movie tropes, the 7 Stages production includes the Little Five Points Rockstar Orchestra. For those whose perfect holiday outing with friends includes a little Iron Maiden, Krampus Xmas is becoming one of Atlanta's new favorite December traditions.

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