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Chriskirkpatrickmas: A Boy Band Christmas Musical – Pleasance Courtyard

Even I’ve heard of Justin Timberlake: he was interviewed by Sir Michael Parkinson back in the day. But Chris Kirkpatrick? Not a clue. Except he introduces himself to others as “Chris Kirkpatrick from *NSYNC” – the ‘from *NSYNC’ bit being so core to his identity that years after the boy band stopped making records, he still believes there’s every possibility of a future reunion. There were indeed a couple of reunions in the form of special appearances, including the unveiling of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2018. But they don’t count as far as this production is concerned – the kind of reunion Chris (or rather, this version of him, played by Valen Shore) wants involves a full-blown restoration of the boy band, complete with record deals and concert tours.

Chriskirkpatrickmas, design by Matt Smith, Desk Tidy Design.
Chriskirkpatrickmas, design by Matt Smith, Desk Tidy Design.

Prior to Christmas one year, Chris contacts his former *NSYNC bandmates, with a view to celebrating the festive season and discuss the way forward (or is it really the way back?). Lance (Riley Rose Critchlow), Joey (Elizabeth Ho) and JC (Mia-Carina Mollicone) all show up. But with their own families looking forward to their company on 25th December itself, the other three decide to hit the road, while Chris insists he would rather wait for Justin (Nicole Wyland), who proves to be a no-show.

There are two broad categories of audience members to be satisfied – those who have a good knowledge of *NSYNC, their back catalogue, and who they even are, and those who don’t. For those of us in the latter category, everything is sufficiently explained, even if the show time-hops in such a way that the storyline is far from linear. The narrative arc very broadly follows that of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, with just the one ‘ghost’, in the form of Marky Mark (Alison Zatta), who is armed with a boombox.

Emily Lambert’s Lou Pearlman, the band’s manager, was bullish about the band’s prospects and potential: as (I assume) every *NSYNC fan knows, Pearlman was later sued by them, the Backstreet Boys, and other bands and artists. His business model relied on paying himself and his record label millions of dollars whilst only paying the artists and bands relatively nominal amounts. The version of the story in this musical is that Chris informs Pearlman that his (Pearlman’s) services are no longer required.

Every moment in the show is a hoot – even the selection of playout music, an *NSYNC song, no less, tells the audience to it’s time to leave: “I want to see you out that door / Baby, bye bye bye!” I don’t have the time or the inclination to factcheck all of the show’s assertions about *NSYNC’s history, suffice to say there are enough people out there that would call it out if there were blatant inaccuracies. Having an all-female cast works brilliantly for the show – boy bands do like to hit the high notes. There’s an admission in the final moments that the show has been developed over the best part of a decade, but even without that knowledge, it’s evident that this is, for all the corny jokes and send-ups of Chris Kirkpatrick and his former bandmates, a love letter to *NSYNC, and to boy bands like them.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

It’s Christmas Eve 2009, seven years into the world-famous boy band’s indefinite hiatus, and *NSYNC’s Chris Kirkpatrick has until midnight to make a wish that could change his life forever.

A Christmas Carol meets It’s A Wonderful Life meets *NSYNC in this laugh-out-loud original musical.

Chris Kirkpatrick may not be the first name people associate with *NSYNC, but it was his tenacity and determination that started the band. He may not have been the breakout star, but he still had everything – until it all abruptly ended. So, what happens after you achieve your Big Dream?

A Boy Band Christmas Musical
Pleasance Courtyard (Pleasance Two), 60 Pleasance, Edinburgh, EH8 9TJ
Wednesday 2nd – Monday 28th August 2023

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