This is Dee Snider.
Frequently lumped in with the glam metal bands of the era (Ratt, Poison et al) the Sisters started early, influenced by acts like the New York Dolls and David Bowie. They gained a reputation as being extremely hard working and politically motivated before the MTV era ushered them in, when their grotesque/glam use of makeup and costuming made them appear more of a parody than a heavy metal outfit. I thought they were amusing but didn’t have much time for them, but I was duly impressed when Snider agreed to testify in front of the Senate in response to the PMRC‘s attempt to label and censor rock music.
The PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center) was a dark period in music history. Their stated goal was to increase parental control over their children’s access too music deemed to have excessively violent or sexual lyrics, or to promote drug use and had suggested a warning label system. I think ultimately they wanted broad range censorship, and while I have learned to love Al Gore I cannot forgive him for Tipper who spearheaded the movement.
Flash forward 30 years and Dee’s CV has gotten pretty impressive. Amongst his many other creative accomplishments it transpires Dee has gone and written a Christmas musical, the Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll XMas Tale. Naturally, Long and I went.
Here’s the thing. I find Christmas very challenging. It makes me extremely anxious and depressed and if I could run away and avoid the whole thing I would. I also hate musicals. If you do the math a Christmas musical would therefore be a terrible idea HOWEVER my love of 1980s kitsch trumped this completely. My anticipation only grew when we we met with the greatest ad poster in the lobby. (Rock N Roll devil forks, anyone?)
There was a small table selling great concert memorabilia, including a Christmas ornament of the show that Long took home (though she did leave the light up drumsticks behind).
We were given these excellent keychains pun entering the theatre that glowed red and green.
and an interactive program to download on our phones.
I was a little dismayed that the venue was only about half full. I am not sure if the mediocre attendance could be attributed to the earliness of the date (mid November) coupled with the unseasonably warm weather (15 degrees celsius that day), or if indeed there just hadn’t been much promotion.
We settled in, and the show began. And it was hilarious. Narrated by Mr Snider himself, it told the tale of a present day hair metal band, decked out in full 1980s finery and fulfilling all the stereotypes a band like theirs should have, starting with their incorrect spelling of their name (“Daisy Cuter”, with umlauts and pronounced “cutter” despite the single “t” as the band thought it looked cooler).
Peter Deiwick played D.D Snutz, band leader, singer, dreamer and true believer that the Daisy’s “Big Break” was right around the corner despite their seriously dated look and sound. Swing (Matt Campbell) is the Jewish guitarist whose life revolves around trying to pick up girls. The bass player, Tank, (Kevin Fox) has serious anger issues and the drummer Ralph (Spencer Robson)is a sweet soul who carries a torch for the nightclub owner Roxanne and is constantly being berated as the “new guy” despite his seven year tenure in the band. Roxanne is played by Taylor Dayne, who has great pipes and really really has to leave her face alone now.
The band has been struggling for twenty years waiting for their big break despite their having missed their stale date by a decade or so. They still believe it can happen but are told that if they cannot fill the nightclub they have been playing by Christmas Eve, some six days hence, they will be fired. In an act of desperation they draw a contract up with Satan to sell their should in exchange for success and the spoils of a rock and roll war. Shortly thereafter every time they go on stage their metal music staples start to morph into heavy rock interpretations of Christmas carols, much to the horror of their lead singer. Their efforts are taped and uploaded to YouTube and the band garners a huge following, but Dee Dee is mortified by what he feels is the deviation from their true, devilish responsibilities.
There are a number of sub plots including a successful EDM DJ, Dee Dee’s conviction that a styrofoam cup was bequeathed to him by Ozzy Osbourne and this chalice will somehow lead him to Rock God status, and a burgeoning love between the club owner and the besotted drummer. Dee Snider punctuated the scenes with a wry narrative that showed his excellent wit and his true bemusement by his own status in the annals of rock n roll history. I have enormous respect for people that are self aware, and Dee Snider has that in spades.
After a tight 90 minute show Long and I were released into a warm fall evening. I couldn’t believe that I had suspended my Scrooge for the whole evening. If this is Christmas, maybe I can take it after all!