“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…” krampus krampus krampus
The classic lyrics waft through the air, intermingled with the scent of freshly baked gingerbread men and the sounds of a crackling fireplace. Marge Krumeich hands me a few ornaments and asks me if I can help complete the tree. With the box of decorations, she also hands me a glass of eggnog – with something stiff added – I have a feeling I may need it. I drink merrily and hang ornaments until Marge’s husband, Jerry, enters wearing his best Christmas sweater. Friends and family alike gather around the fireplace, drinks in hand, and reflect upon our past year. The Krumeich family is coming home – and this family is eager to unwrap the dark secrets hidden beneath their Christmas tree.
Krampus is the sixth immersive experience by Las Vegas’ Majestic Repertory Theatre. Produced in a home in downtown Vegas, the show welcomes up to fourteen audience members into a 70-minute experience. It is dark and scary, but punctuated with wonderful comedic timing. Inspired by the European legend of Santa’s evil counterpart (the horned demon who punished bad children), Krampus invites guests to unravel not just the tensions that a normal family experiences during the holiday season, but also the mystery of the family’s connection to this mythical beast.
Similar to other immersive experiences, the group of fourteen audience members is quickly separated into smaller, more intimate groups of two to five in order to interact with the extended Krumeich family. Troy Heard’s expert direction allows for expanded audience interactivity and a deeper look at the nuanced characters. But unlike other on-rail immersive experiences, the tracks are not predefined and are not restricted – audiences can take a more sandbox-style approach and move to another family member if they truly desire.
It’s in these quiet respites with the family that allow the audience to explore some of the less traveled areas of the Krumeich house and to see April Allain’s gorgeous and deliberate production design. Returning from college for the first time in two years, daughter Carly’s room looks the same as it did during her childhood: Twilight posters (with Taylor Lautner front and center) adorn the walls, stuffed animals crowd a child’s bed, and kids’ books line the shelves. This innocent room perfectly contrasts with the Pagan ceremony that Carly (Callie Maxson) asks guests to participate in to cleanse themselves before the night begins. Marge and Jerry’s room is decorated… uniquely enough to give any guest pause, with large nude and religious imagery on the walls – as well as taxidermy to watch over the head of the bed. Finally, the kitchen provides a space for guests to join Marge in decorating the gingerbread cookies you smell when you enter – just don’t mind the large, sharp knives on display.
As with any great immersive event, Krampus rests on the shoulders of its impressive and talented cast. Maxson expertly raises the tension until a perfectly timed jump-scare provides a cathartic release. Further, Cousin Alan (Kyle Jones) injects delightful comedic timing to rival the darker undertones of Krampus. With his quick wit and sarcastic humor, Jones has created a character with whom the audience can identify and connect to – especially as the chaos begins to unfold. I found myself clinging close to him just to catch another clever one-liner. Ultimately, it was Oma (Gail Romero), as the aging matriarch of the Krumeich clan, who propels the narrative forward. Armed with a perfect German accent, she exudes a passion and ferocity that other actors only wish they could call upon. With words alone, she makes the audience fear the legend of Krampus, and look over their shoulders for the imposing beast.
With tickets priced at only $35 dollars for this 70-minute event, the blossoming Vegas scene is one to jump on for those in the L.A.-area looking for the best value for their dollar. This experience provides light refreshments, drinks, interactivity, and a wonderful narrative at a price that would be over triple that cost in Los Angeles. These tickets won’t remain this price forever (seriously, Troy, raise your prices), as the Vegas scene will slowly realize how special this art form is. So, do us a favor, and regardless of price, take a trip out to Vegas to experience the next Majestic Repertory Theatre immersive production.
Majestic Repertory Theatre’s Krampus is a prime example of what a small-form, intimate, and interactive experience should be. It excels in making audiences feel important and connected to the narrative, creating a realistic and beautiful Krumeich home, and building tension until the narrative explodes in chaos and excitement. Majestic has created two impressive and innovative experiences (see our review on Horrorwood Video here) and are gearing up for their next: Our Town, the American classic reimagined as an immersive, church basement pot-luck! This company is defining the Vegas immersive scene and is one to celebrate far beyond the holiday season.