Ian Christiansen Riffs on Star Wars and the Holidays at Crescent Ballroom

The week after Christmas offers a welcome respite from Frosty and Rudolph and those other sing-along carols. For a real break from musical tradition, though, locals have the benefit of performer Ian Christiansen’s holiday cabaret. Part holiday jamboree, part post-celebration celebration, Wreck the Halls is the latest in Christiansen’s “Lil Johnny” series of cabarets, the dozenth edition he’s presented since moving to the Valley about six years ago.

“Cabaret is an unofficial home away from home for me,” says the former Manhattanite. “It’s a good place to let loose, let off a little sarcastic steam, maybe tear up for a moment or two.” This year’s holiday home away from home is structured in three different acts, Christiansen explains. “The first part is something I call Season’s Beatings, where we really poke fun at Christmas. Part Two is Holigays, where I talk about things like dating and being single at this time of year. And then we wind up with a section on New Year’s.”

That last section, says Christiansen, is as close to sentimental as Wreck the Halls will get. “You can’t bombard an audience with snark for two hours,” he says, laughing. “So we’re kind of wearing our hearts on our sleeves toward the end. And I’m trying to figure out a way to sneak in a Star Wars bit somewhere, just so we’re being really timely.”

The “we” is music director and pianist Dan Kurek, whose DK Trio includes a percussionist and upright bass player, and vocal guest Alanna Kalbfleisch, known to fans of Valley Bar’s Bump in the Night Cabaret.

“I was working with Dan right from the beginning,” says Christiansen, who teaches theater at Arizona School for the Arts. “We’re kind of the odd couple. He has a classical background, so he doesn’t just show up and say, ‘I’m going to play this and this.’ We end up talking about the musicality of things. It makes for a more interesting blend of music and material.”

There are, Christiansen admits, more and more holiday cabarets every year. “But I want ours to be the one people return to,” he says. “We’re more than just a lot of Christmas carols and cute skits.”

Wreck the Halls is at Crescent Ballroom on Wednesday, December 30. The 21-and-over show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $15 in advance via or $20 at the event. 

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela