The Second City: Famed Troupe Performs at Power House Theatre

Improv and comedy group brings “The Second City’s Nut-Cracking Holiday Revue” to Walla Walla

Missy Gerlach, Staff Reporter

What do Tina Fey, Bill Murray and Stephen Colbert all have in common? Each of them at one time or another, were a part of the Chicago-based improv and comedy group, The Second City. This year, The Second City came to Walla Walla’s Gesa Power House Theatre for one night, bringing their show, “The Second City’s Nut-Cracking Holiday Revue” to local audiences.

The Second City story began in the winter of 1959, when the troupe performed in Chicago for the first time. Since then, The Second City has become one of the world’s premier comedy clubs with additional locations in Toronto and Hollywood. In addition to giving performances every night, the theater is also a well-known school of improvisation, helping launch the careers of many comedians, directors, actors and others involved in the entertainment industry over its 57-year lifespan. Some of the most notable alumni include Steve Carell, Mike Meyers, Jane Lynch and many, many more.

“The Second City’s Nut-Cracking Holiday Revue” consisted of six comedians: Adam Archer, Danny Catlow, Alison Gates, Eve Krueger, Greg Ott and Lauren Walker. Together, they presented a two-hour long show that focused on the holiday season but gave it a new spin. Instead of talking about how much they loved the holidays, the six-person group joked about all the bad parts, such as the stress of family visits, bad holiday office parties and the necessary but difficult avoidance of talking politics. The group also mocked the insanity of 2016 and opened the show with a joking song about how this holiday season is no different from those of previous years. The song, with references to Donald Trump and other current events interspersed throughout, playfully mocked the ridiculousness of that claim.

The Holiday Revue offered a variety of different sketches, which pleasantly broke up the timing of the show and made the two hours fly by. Short, scripted skits were interspersed with longer sketches, typically improvised by the group. One of these shorter skits focused on the idea of a “millennial holiday season”–a spotlight briefly illuminated one of the actors, pantomiming smoking weed with a bong. The skit was short, only a couple of seconds, but was repeated a few times throughout the show.

Notably, the group performed numerous songs, both improvised and scripted. One of the scripted songs poked fun at stereotypical overwrought holiday music. The singer waltzed around the stage with her microphone, singing about how miserable the holidays made her. Taking a break from singing, she asked audience members about their holidays but humorously gave audience members a minuscule amount of time to respond. While the pre-written works were perhaps indicative of a more standard comedic show, the improvised parts were what truly gave the show a sense of individuality–who knows how different audience suggestions in another city might change the show?

Another key aspect of the show was the interaction between the group and their audience. Throughout the show they asked the audience for suggestions and even brought one woman onstage to participate in a sketch. This playful dynamic lead to some of the more amusing moments of the show, like when a cast-member asked for the name of a celebrity crush. In response, a woman shouted out, “Leonardo,” presumably referencing actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Unfortunately for her, leaving out his last name allowed another audience member to tack on, “da Vinci,” comically changing the figure of the celebrity crush.

Although the night technically focused on the holidays, the group and show sought to make themselves an escape from the stress that can accompany the season. In embracing all of the negatives of the season, The Second City gave a somewhat more honest and more relatable depiction of this time of year which kept audience members laughing throughout the night.