The Fifth No�
By Jason Lamphier
If you find yourself in New York City this weekend'or if you're just another Big Apple'based, world-weary, anti-Santa cynic'you may want to hit up Adam Dugas's answer to the season's most dreaded perennial, the Christmas concert. In the past, he's collaborated with cabaret powerhouse Justin Bond and churned out politically charged revues with the Citizens Band. Now, the underground crooner (who just happens to be Casey Spooner's BF) will emcee his fifth annual holiday extravaganza, Chaos & Candy. Featuring a revamped jingle from the lost Barbie Christmas album and brassy, astronomy-inspired costumes, this year's spectacle is stuffed with avant-garde goodies. Think of it as an alternative to those cherub-faced brats who can't carry a tune in a bucket. Here's what Dugas had to say about the show.
How did you come up with the idea for Chaos & Candy?
I'd always been interested in the history of the holiday because it has very strange underpinnings. You think you know what it is, but as soon as you start to dig deeper, it unravels. Christmas was originally the solstice celebration, during the darkest time of the year. It's the beginning of winter, but it's also when people would put lights in their trees and have bonfires to get the sun to come back, because the superstition was that the sun was going to die. It's a very superstitious, haunted, magical time. So I just wanted to share that.
What can we expect from the performance?
The show is like a variety cabaret, my own network television special meets a Radio City show. I have guest singers, and we do The Nutcracker and dance numbers. There's a theme every year.
This year it's 'Cosmic Yule'?
Yes, outer space renaissance. Everything is black and silver. The materials are easy to find, sparkly, and glamorous. But there are also some very well-made costumes. So many people feel left out at the holiday, whether they're nonreligious or Jewish, so part of my goal was to produce this chaotic, pagan freak-out of light and color and music during the darkest time of year. You can't escape it, so you have to open a window to feel a part of it. Also, you get this endless rampage for months, and there's no release. You go to your family's house and there you are. There's all this anticipation and shopping, and we freak out, and then you get there, and you're like, 'What happened? There's nothing happening.' This is the release you're waiting for.
This is the climax?
I climax for you. We get together and it feels like what you want the holiday to feel like. It's this massive, explosive orgy of fun.
What's the format of the show?
I usually tell the entire history of Christmas, including how it's related to New York City'Santa Claus was kind of invented here'and the way we celebrate it now. There's this false nostalgia of Christmas'the family around the tree'which was invented by 19th-century advertisers. In a way, it's the invention of Madison Avenue. This year there's more of a flow: a big opening number, then a parade of singers and dancers doing familiar and unfamiliar numbers'and we'll have a lot of original songs this year.
Did you write any songs?
I'm writing one. We're also doing a Kinks song called 'Father Christmas' and a song from the Barbie Christmas album called 'The Snow Queen.' And a really bizarre rendition of 'Sleigh Ride' kabuki-style.
'The Snow Queen'? I don't know that.
I have this amazing friend who has all this pop-culture detritus. She's like, 'Oh, did you know that the Turtles (who wrote 'Happy Together') wrote all the Strawberry Shortcake records?' I think they wrote the Barbie Christmas album, too. But I'm also into classical and Switched-On Bach, the '60s moog version of Bach. So we're doing The Nutcracker that style, with synthesizers and electronic harpsichord sounds. We have a harpist, trumpets, saxophones, guitar, bass, keyboards, and lots of feedback effects. It's an electric orchestra.