The Spaceship of the Imagination Makes Spirits Bright – Nashville Scene

Personally, I identify with the Grinch. And yet, I find these waning weeks of December particularly festive if for no other reason than they signal that the whole crass consumerist schmegegge of Christmas is on its way out. In spite of all that, local seasonal synth ensemble The Spaceship of the Imaginations annual untraditional take on the Christmas pageant was an apt reminder theres an undeniable joy lurking beneath the hype. This years cast and crew offered quite possibly the most lit time to be had inside a church outside of Kanye Wests Sunday Service.

Though the synth-band-turned-performance-troupe doesnt have an affiliation with Trinity United Methodist Church, this is the third year that the sanctuary (through its Trinity Community Commons program) has hosted local piano man, keyboard wiz and SOTI orchestrator Matt Rowland and his Carl Sagan-inspired group. This years production, whose opening night I saw Thursday, marks the 11th year Rowland has convened his group. Hes assembled an increasingly more elaborate cast of familiar faces from the various local arts and music scenes. They pooled their talents for yet another absurdist, slightly psychedelic and wholly entertaining original stage production.

I unfortunately missed last years epic multimedia showcase Krampus Gone Wild which I understand included multiple green-screen sequences. This year, the technology was dialed way back, but the production (with a cast and crew of 28) wasnt poorer for it. Many of the players doubled as puppeteers something Werner Herzog might be proud of expanding the cast to something like 35 characters as the black-clad crew of stagehands hustled diligently between scenes to swap out sets. For the first time, the vast majority of the music was original compositions. There were literally no dull moments in this impressive three-hour opus (complete with intermission, of course).

Jessica Claus, Frosty the Snowman and Aurora the Polar BearPhoto: Laura E. Partain

This years show, Ms. Claus Saves Christmas, picks up after Krampus Gone Wild. As the show opens, we find Santas former wife Jessica Claus (ace singer Keshia Bailey), still recovering from their split and trying to put her life back together in her hometown of Paducah, Ky., aka The Pitiful Pad or The Dirty Ducah, after 150-odd years at the North Pole. Meanwhile, the half-goat, half-demon European folk legend Krampus (Seth Pomeroy, a pillar of Nashvilles stand-up and sketch comedy scene) had indeed gone wild, abandoning the now-canceled Christmas holiday in favor of an eternal summer of reckless hedonism.

The world mourns the loss, while Krampus, conspiring with his sidekick and hype-man Elfy and a couple of suits from Coca-Cola, embarks on a rap career. (The beats are genuinely dope, while Krampus bars are good-bad on an MST3K level and delivered with pitch-perfect swaggering gusto.) Soon, its clear that it will be up to Ms. C. and a lovable, ragtag group of North Pole loyalists a pair of reindeer, a couple gung-ho elves, a polar bear, an adorable snow couple to get Christmas back on track.

Was the production flawless? Nah. Acting styles meshed with mixed success, lines were flubbed, marks were missed and character was often broken by fits of laughter. But when a cast is having this much fun onstage, the spirit is infectious, which is ultimately the point. Rowland and his electro quartet laid an increasingly mean and funky flavor on traditional holiday tunes, and the show culminated in a candle-lit, audience-participatory chorus of Silent Night.

As a curmudgeonly holiday hater, I felt a little tricked as I found myself holding a tiny flame inside a church while swaying to a classic carol. However, with my face still sore from laughing through most of the last few hours, how could I gripe in the wake of this inspiringly DIY spectacle and wholly Nashville tradition? The Spaceship of the Imagination has landed on a universal translation of the holiday spirit. They continue to subvert any superficial or moral objections with an undeniably fun and impressive expression of goodwill.

You've got two more chances to see the show, tonight and Saturday. Tickets are $20 and available in advance. Below, check out photos from opening night by Laura E. Partain.

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The Spaceship of the Imagination Makes Spirits Bright - Nashville Scene

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