Roll over, Prince Rogers Nelson.
The Brave New Workshop pays tribute to the Purple One by comically interpolating some of his songs for the holidays in its latest comedy revue. So, "Let's Go Crazy" becomes "Let's Go Gravy," as people drown in excess.
Prince isn't the only dearly departed musical icon to get this humorous treatment in "What the Elf," the troupe's irreverent, often funny show that opened Saturday in downtown Minneapolis. The workshop also sends up tunes by David Bowie, using the melodies and hooks to serve a useful and funny purpose in the troupe's 58th holiday show.
The workshop has a knack for finding the funny in things that sometimes leaves us with questions or makes us uncomfortable. They apply modern standards to old tales or launch into sensitive areas with gusto. In "Elf," they re-imagine the nativity manger as an Airbnb, where a teenage mother and her husband are seeking refuge. The barn has a pervy horse that tries to help the birthing mother to breathe. Really strange but very funny.
Santa, also, is re-imagined as a weirdo and a werewolf.
The show's 14 skits include "Eggnog," a syncopated spoof of "Day-O, The Banana Boat," made famous by Harry Belafonte. The workshop song points to cheerful holiday imbibing, with a tagline of "Christmas comin' an' me wan' get drunk."
The company brings back some numbers, updated of course, that have been hallmarks of past workshop shows, including "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and a two-minute summary of the Guthrie's "A Christmas Carol."
As its title suggests, "What the Elf" is sometimes profane. But the production, staged with zip by Caleb McEwen and featuring a tireless quintet with expert comic timing, is made up of Taj Ruler, Tom Reed, Ryan Nelson, newcomer Denzel Belin and longtime mainstay Lauren Anderson. They deliver the goods, even if the show is comparatively tame by Brave New Workshop standards.
Maybe they are giving us a break after a bitter political season. Whatever, their sendup of the offerings for the Hallmark channel seems downright wholesome.￼