IKE AVELLI’S “Mary, What Child Is This?!?” at NYC’s Triad Theatre: A Review

This is NOT your traditional holiday show!

(Oh gee [zus]… we never would have guessed…!)

Ike Avelli’s hilarious new Yuletide show, Mary What Child is This?!? opens with a young, overeager fan (Played by Ike’s first Special Guest, actor Sam Stein) being starstruck by the award-winning comedian: “Are you THE Ike Avelli?”  Despite Sam’s unyielding admiration, Ike resists his youthful charms.  After all, our Mr. Avelli has a bigger, jollier target in mind.  He knows that… “Santa Claus is Coming to Town!”  What happens next is a high-spirited song-and-dance number, reminiscent of a scene from old-school Hollywood… if old-school Hollywood, that is, could be so… well, GAY!  It was the perfect kickoff for a Christmas special which was 80% naughty and 20% nice (Give or take…)

But wait! Who is Ike Avelli?  

Ike Avelli is an award-winning performer and producer who has created 12 (Yes, a dirty dozen…) original shows with names like I’ve Slept My Way to the Top….Twice in 2013 and Lube: A Gay-sical in 2019.  Those titles may be titillating enough, but Ike’s most well-known show is 50 Shades of Gay, which has been performed in many cities and is a perennial crowd favorite. Ike is known for his no-holes barred sense of humor, wild costumes, and his smart yet sassy homages to pop culture.

OK, OK, so why does Ike Avelli have a Christmas show?

Well, if the Flintstones existed in the Stone Age– WAYYYYY before Jesus could have been born– and they can have a Christmas episode, why can’t Ike do a Christmas show about holes… uh, I mean a WHOLE Christmas show?  If nice Jewish girl Barbra Streisand can have an album called Christmas Memories (Funny… I wouldn’t think she’d have any…), then why can’t Ike sing Christmas Time is Here, dressed as Charlie Brown– with new lyrics that would make even Peppermint Patty blush? And… if Pee Wee Herman can have an ’80’s TV special with Charo singing Feliz Navidad (Yes, it’s true.  Google it!), then why can’t this self-proclaimed “Christmas ho” put on a variety show featuring the fantastic Coby Koehl bringing the house down with Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas?

Like all of Avelli’s performance pieces, Ike’s deliciously decadent Christmas cocktail features an ingredient list of comedy, music, storytelling, video, and audience participation — all custom stirred shaken to suit the idiosyncratic charms of Avelli and his special guests.  Whether Ike is sharing his story about pining (or pine-needling) for a Stetson-smelling straight guy named Jim, or telling the REAL story of how Santa met the future Mrs. Claus (It’s NOT how you think…), his original shows are always over the top and raunchy… although nothing you couldn’t bring your mother to see.  As mentioned before, Avelli has a special affinity for our comedy icons through the years. One of them is… Lucille Ball!  Ike’s second Special Guest was drag star Anida Tension, AKA NJs Hardest Werkin’ Housewife.  Anida (Forgive me for being so formal, but “Mrs. Tension” just doesn’t quite do the trick!).  She delighted both Ike and the audience with her boozy re-creation of the most iconic scene from I Love Lucy, Season 1 Episode 30.  Many of you may better know this as… “the Vitameatavegamin episode”!  If you have any doubt of Lucy’s transgenerational appeal in 2022, launch an I Love Lucy marathon on your TV at your next party.  You’ll see how quickly your guests will bond with each other!  Ms. Ball would indeed approve of this fellow housewife’s tribute!  As a follow up, our Jersey girl gave the crowd the perennial boozy favorite 12 Daze (Not DAYS…) of Christmas, originally made famous by another funny redhead, Fay McKay.  It was perfectly suited for Anida’s persona.  Ike’s third Special Guest was singer Coby Koehl, who has been endlessly praised for his original music as well as his ability to elevate our favorite songs to new levels.  Tonight, the chosen hit was Material Girl by Madonna. Koehl hits some truly astonishing notes and adds serval new dimensions to anything he takes on… and this piece of popcraft from 1984 was no exception.  But wait… there was more!  As a critic, my own criteria for how well an artist re-works the oft-reworked Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas is based on the anticipation with the lyric “Hang a shining star above the highest bough” before bringing it home with “And have yourself a merry little Christmas NOW…!” Did Koehl meet my criteria? You won’t need three wise men and a virgin (Good luck finding a virgin at Ike’s show…) to figure out the answer!  

A bit earlier, I mentioned Ike’s fabulous costumes.  The “piece de resistance” of the night’s fashions, designed by Suze GX Designs, was when Ike transformed from a present to a fully blinged-out Christmas tree.  At the risk of sounding cliched, this costume must be seen to be believed!  

But enough about the “naughty”.  What about the “nice”? Despite the seemingly endless stream of Uberlube (One of the show’s sponsors) and the equally endless parade of jokes which would shock even Joan Rivers, Mary, What Child is This?!? is amazingly good-natured and sweet.  Avelli is an intensely loyal performer, who consistently seeks out fresh talent yet always remains true-blue to his family, friends, fellow performers, and stalkers admirers.  Yes, kids… welcome to the “Avelliverse”.  He often recruits his friends and family– both biological and otherwise– for his comedy videos.  On this night, there was indeed old VHS-style video comedy… but the audience was also treated to a bittersweet tribute to friends past and present, inspired by the famous New Year’s Eve episode of Sex and the City.  This video featured a heartstring-tugging tribute to his longtime companion Tyrone Desperado, who sadly passed away earlier this year.  If the audience was crying from laughter for the show’s first 80 minutes, there were tears for different reasons this time around.   

Attendees that night included a mix of Ike’s fellow showbiz peers, community movers-and-shakers, and a variety of full-time socialites: Tym Moss, Nick Lion, Cecile Williams, Albert Crocus Pena, Cheryl Pierce, Joe Preston, Che Che, Jack Phelan, Joseph Aiello, Lady Clover Honey, Jesse Lutrell, Joey Infante, Michael Gonzales, Denn Vetta, Nate Smith, Leann Stein, Eleni Lucas, E. Martin Davidoff (one of the show’s sponsors) … and Ike’s mother!

Let’s hope we see more of Mary, What Child is This?!? soon!  This is one holiday show worth re-gifting again and again…

See more at http://www.IkeAvelli.net.

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