Poor orphan boys are to Christmas like antacid is to post-Christmas Eve dinners. There is just something about little street urchins with their too-thin coats that tug at the Christmas heart. I mean, you would have to be a real Scrooge not to be moved by a poor defenseless little boy in search of his mom and maybe a warm bowl of soup. It also provides prime for parody.
“Little Orphan Boy the Musical!” (written by Christopher Dritsas and Zach Hacker and now playing at the Annoyance Theatre) takes this material and spins it into a two-act original musical that takes on everything from “Oliver” to “Batman” to “Harry Potter” and even “Planet of The Apes.” It even ventures into the world of the absurd, with a time-loop paradox offered up in the second act.
But is it funny? Yes, very. It is actually laugh-out-loud funny, with big musical numbers that have titles like “Piss and Shit” and “Killin’ Boys.” The music (composed by John Love) also hits hard with inane, self-aware lyrics (“I’m cold. Not warm at all”) poking fun not just of “orphan porn,” but the art of the musical itself.
The cast is equally exceptional, led by Christopher Dritsas (who also co-wrote the musical) as Little Lad, a poor British boy separated from his mum in New York City after their boat hit an iceberg. A physical presence in the mode of Will Ferrell in “Elf,” there is just something funny about Christopher dressed up like a British school boy, complete with bad teeth and an over-the-top blond wig. His facial expressions also serve up a running commentary on Little Lad’s increasingly dire situation. Most of the big laughs are earned by the ensemble, who execute the comedic material with high energy and precision. They also sing very well; much better, in fact, than is needed, with Beth Nelson as Little Lad’s mum several times reaching operatic heights. Also impressive is Sage Huston, who puts a real menace into her child-killer role. (I know that sounds dark for a comedy but trust me, it works.)
Credit Director Edgar Nevarez for his impeccable pacing on stage. Sheena Laird’s choreography is impressive as well. Together they create a clever and endearing production that establishes itself early on as greater than its parts. “Little Orphan Boy the Musical!” might never be the Christmas classic it deserves to be, but it is a heck of a lot of fun and a belly full of laughs.
“Little Orphan Boy the Musical!” at Annoyance Theatre & Bar, 851 West Belmont, (773)697-9693, $20, through December 28.