The shows of Saul Tannenbaum might be thought of as a theatrical Jell-O salad.
There is the funky retro feeling, visual appeal and the union of sometimes-unlikely ingredients. (At the Thanksgiving show, the ’40s-dressed singers performed, among other numbers, “Don’t Fear the Reaper.”) And there’s the sense something is not quite real.
“Saul has no grasp on reality or history or time or place,” said Josh Anderson, the pianist, musical director and composer who created and embodies Saul. “The stories that we tell require that you sort of forget about the progression of history.”
In other words, when the glasses-wearing, big-wigged Saul starts talking about history, things get a little mixed up – so much so that Anderson can’t necessarily remember what he’s said. “He said it was the celebration of the War of Independence,” he said. “I think it was independence from Canada or independence from France.
“Saul Tannenbaum telling the story of Christmas is a story of Christmas that no one has ever heard before.”
The show features Saul, three singing Jingle Belles and a collection of special guests, including the Marlene Dietrich-inspired Mona von Horne and brother and sister act Ricardo and Carlotta Fishman.
“Saul picked them up at the IHOP in Hoboken,” Anderson said.
There’s a loose plot, mostly involving rivalries among the various performers and Saul’s efforts to ensure that everyone has a happy holiday.
Mona is portrayed by Christina Collins, who last year played Christmas-hating stage manager Dot Sangfroid. “The chemistry works better with Mona and Saul than with Dot and Saul,” she said. “Dot was very negative, and there is only so far you can go with that and have it still be funny.”
This is the fourth Olympia show for Saul, and there’s another one coming in the spring.
“We like to use the Christmas show as more of an intro to the Saul universe,” Collins said. “Possibly more new people will come to a Christmas show.”
Mona and Saul will sing a duet of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” The show’s music, though, ventures well beyond the traditional, including an original Hanukkah song and what Anderson calls “the last Christmas medley you will ever need.”
“We have several medleys that are mind-boggling,” Collins said.
That’s something else Josh and Saul share with gelatin – they can bind together the most unlikely medleys of ingredients into something that goes down easy.