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Oh, Kitschmas tree

Sayonara, "Stardust"

From left, Jackson Jones, Maggie Lofquist, Mark Alford and a purple wedding cake star in Harlequin Productions' "The Stardust Christmas Commotion." Courtesy photo

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"What's wrong with the same old thing?

"I think that question answers itself." - actual dialogue from The Stardust Christmas Commotion

Indeed it does. Coincidentally, my wife and I had just caught the end of Ratatouille on TV. The bloodthirsty critic voiced by Peter O'Toole in that film, Anton Ego, says of his job, "The new needs friends." That's my favorite part of being a critic, too: the opportunity to herald new or challenging productions that merit your patronage. What I have to say about Christmas Commotion, the fourth such production I've seen in five years of reviewing, doesn't matter. People love it and show up in droves no matter what I say. Opening night saw the largest crowd we've seen there in months. Good for Harlequin's coffers.

Jackson Jones has a beautiful voice that blends well with Mark Alford's. The harmonies throughout are lovely. Edsonya Charles' two songs from the Prohibition era kick the show into cruising gear. I'd rather watch her sing and goof around for two hours with Bruce Whitney and his combo. The set, as always, is gorgeous. Nothing in or about the show will offend your Fox-News-loving grandparents; on the contrary, it makes Josh Groban look edgy by comparison. The program notes entertain and amuse. Everyone's pretty and helpful - no alarms and no surprises.

I notice what works. But I also notice this show aims its view directly at a tacky aluminum Christmas tree. It's onstage from beginning to end. I notice sardonic meta-commentary like the lines I quoted above. I notice when the lineup of songs includes every dips--- '50s single you hoped you'd never hear again: "Lollipop," "Volare," "Rockin' Robin." Unlike the first Stardust show I reviewed in 2010, there are no exciting musical rediscoveries. And make no mistake, there was terrific music in the '50s: Sinatra, Sam Cooke, Wanda Jackson, Nina Simone. Maybe Harlequin's already burned through all those. But when I see this show highlighting what Harlequin and I both know is absolute kitsch, it strikes me as a white flag. This is commerce, not art.

I've been banned from two theaters, a credential I wear with bemused pride. I'm a consumer advocate, not a publicist. It's my job to be honest - but not to be hateful, nor to keep coming back to a series that isn't for me. From now on I'm banning myself from Stardust. Perhaps Joann Varnell or Rev. Adam McKinney will be able to give it a fairer shot. The truth is half the numbers in Christmas Commotion (of which there's precious little, by the way) made me want to smack myself unconscious with a holiday fruitcake. For me to review another episode would waste your time and mine, my editor's money and the company's patience and comp tickets. Farewell, Stardust, and many happy box office returns.

THE STARDUST CHRISTMAS COMMOTION, 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Dec. 31, Harlequin Productions, 202 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia, $25-$39, 360.786.0151

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