Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
All Puppet Players
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's reviews of Nonfat Soy Peppermint Mocha Latte ... with Sprinkles and Heathers: The Musical

Kyle Coughlin
Photo Courtesy of All Puppet Players
Shaun Michael McNamara and his All Puppet Players usually take well-known films and books and turn them into humorous puppet theatrical spoofs that are also full of plenty of R-rated adult material. Two of their recent adaptations made fun of the hit erotica novel "Fifty Shades of Grey" and the classic horror film The Exorcist. So it's a bit of a departure that their latest offer is a family friendly send-up of one of the worst films ever made, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, and one that hasn't had anywhere near the cultural impact of those other titles. While the lack of familiarity of the movie does mean audiences won't anticipate what's coming or revel in how McNamara is able to make fun of well known lines or scenes, something that made the audience easily connect with his previous works, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians still results in a silly, fun time.

Brian Newell and Nick McGee's adaptation streamlines the film plot a bit. The basic premise follows a group of Martians who decide to go to Earth and kidnap Santa Claus to make their Martian children have more fun. While the plot seems a bit heavy for a holiday tale, it is full of fun moments, comical situations and characters, and a big dose of charm.

The team of Martians who go to Earth are played by Zack Funk, McNamara, and Nathan Spector, with each of them delivering a unique, comical and even heartfelt performance. Funk is the Martian leader and he achieves a nice authoritative tone; McNamara is the evil Martian and he relishes every scene-chewing moment he can find; and Spector is the sweet and loving member of the troop who makes you care for him and his fellow Martians. As the three human characters in the show, Kyle Coughlin is the perfect embodiment of Santa Claus, full of care, love and sweetness, even to the Martians who abduct him, while Michael Margetis and Emily Lynne Aiken are hilarious as the children who get swept up in to the Martian plot.

David Chorley's swift direction keeps the show moving at a quick clip with scene changes that are faster than some past All Puppet Players production. Yet his direction is loose enough to allow for the occasional ad lib from the cast. Chelsea Umeda's scenic design features some large set pieces to portray the Martian spaceship. However, the static large pieces and the abundance of wrapped Christmas presents scattered around the set don't always signify the exact location of the story. As usual, the puppet designs are superb with the green-hued Martian puppets, which are in various shades and sizes, spectacular and Chorley, and Newell's sound design provides plenty of fun music moments.

Even with the somewhat abridged version of the film script, the evening still runs a bit long. However, with a game cast who play up the comical and somewhat idiotic moments of the original film it amounts to a humorous and fun departure from the usual holiday theatrical productions in town.

All Puppet Players' production of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians runs through December 19th, 2015, at Playhouse on the Park, 1850 N. Central Avenue, in Phoenix. Tickets can be purchased at or by calling 602-254-2151

Based on the adaptation by Brian Newell and Nick McGee from the Screenplay by Glenville Martin and Paul L. Jacobson
Directed by David Chorley
Produced by Shaun Michael McNamara Executive Producers: Kristin & Charlie McNamara
Stage Manager & Lighting Operator: JennAfer Sankar
Scenic Design: Chelsea Umeda
Lighting Design: Clare Burnett
Sound Design: David Chorley and Brian Newell
Costumer: Kristin McNamara
Puppet Design/ Construction: Jay Tyson, Shaun Michael McNamara & Tanner J. Stuff

Santa Claus: Kyle Coughlin
Kimar: Zack Funk
Voldar/Momar: Shaun Michael McNamara
Rigna/Winky: Nathan Spector
Billy: Michael Margetis
Betty: Emily Lynne Aiken
Girmar: Anna Katen
Chochem, Ms. Claus, Torg: Tallie Hartley
Andy Anderson, Torg: David Magadan

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