Crystal Cathedral's 'Glory of Christmas' Delivers Baby Jesus, Flying Angels and Camel Poop

All I Want for Christmas is Camel Poop
And Hallelujah, Glory delivers

When I told my mother I was going to review The Glory of Christmas—a show she forced my sister and me to sit through when we were teenagers—she moaned. “Oh, God . . . just remember there are a lot of people who really like that show, so try to be kind,” she said. I told her that, religious or not, this was a show—one people pay to see, therefore open to all scrutiny, especially since it pushes a sanitized version of a debatable history that’s often the bedrock for advocating cruelty in the name of God. But besides that . . .

The spectacularly luminous Glory began sucking the wattage out of Garden Grove back in 1981 with its re-enactment of the birth of Baby Jesus (though this production claims his real name is Joshua. Seriously?). Giving birth to a baby—even if it’s a very special baby—just doesn’t carry much dramatic weight onstage, however. Therefore, the show is padded like a teenager’s bra with every Christ-y Christmas song on record and enough interpretive dancers to run the Spandex mills dry (Jesus’ tumultuous post-birth story is neatly wrapped up in a five-minute narrative at the end; all that crucifixion/resurrection stuff is a bummer, after all, and would just ruin the story for the Glory of Easter flock in April).

But they also have live animals! Yes, Glory of Christmas producers sell their spiritual celebration as a Barnum-and-Bailey-type showstopper, a brilliant marketing move because who doesn’t want to see sheep shit? Hand me my binoculars, please.

Now, being almost an atheist, I decided to protect myself from vengeful-God wrath by toting along my boozy, Penny Marshall-channeling, Irish-Catholic friend Susan, who immediately accepted my invitation as if I were taking her to the carny tent to see a three-teated cow. And I sure was glad to have a believer with me when we barreled into the Crystal Cathedral’s steely, towering, trinity trap, and a Darth Vaderesque voice suddenly boomed down on us. (God? Are you there? It’s me, Stacy.) Fortunately, the familiar bass turned out to be old Haunted Mansion icon Thurl Ravenscroft, not the sound of my impending contrition. Campy! If Mr. Grinch could walk us through the nativity tale, then would Phyllis Diller appear as King Herod? Were my prayers being answered?

Fat chance. Instead, our ears bled as very good singers wasted their breath on songs we’ve heard too many times (and newer ones we wished we never had), and our eyes burned while lots of flaming young men and Barbie-doll blondes performed “ballet lite.” We were starting to flat-line when, finally, 100 feet above us, some shrieking angels whizzed out on wires. They were Angels Gone Wild, whooshing around like glittery white bats, skirts fluttering up for possible money shots. Eventually, all of them propelled backward into darkness so disturbingly fast that Sue leaned over and said, “It’s like the freakin’ Exorcist.”

When the procession of sheep, goats, unruly alpacas and three majestic camels entered the stage, Sue gasped, “Aren’t they the cutest things? I just want to go up and kiss their little camel lips!” Normally, I would’ve taken Sue’s flask away, but she was right—those camels were positively kissable. We stared at them, immune to the surrounding biblical mayhem, and realized that they were as bewildered as we were as to what the hell was going on. Baby Jesus had nothing to offer them—but they had something for him, and like a handful of punctuation marks, one camel dropped a load. The two little girls sitting in front of us, who had been yawning and kicking fidgety, patent leather shoes throughout the glorious night, leapt to their feet and squealed, “He pooped, Mommy! He pooped!”

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

The Glory of Christmas at the Crystal Cathedral, 12141 Lewis St., Garden Grove, (714) 971-4000; www.crystalcathedral.org. Mon.-Tues., 6:30 & 8:30 p.m.; Sat., 4:30, 6:30 & 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 5:30 & 7:30 p.m. Times may vary. Call for more info. $20-$45.

 
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