This review should probably come with a disclaimer: Unlike many of you, I don't hate the holidays. Religion be damned, but food, presents, and celebrations are OK in my book. So it is not with an entirely hardened heart that I approached Susannah Mars' Mars on Life: The Holiday Edition, a holiday cabaret show in which the Drammy-winning Mars takes a swing at holiday tunes.
Mars On Life suffers from the lack of focus that seems to be a hallmark of the contemporary holiday experience: In an attempt to include everyone (God forbid we call it a Christmas show), the show ends up being a scattershot mess that provides little in the way of actual "holiday cheer."
The show is divided into categories like "family," "winter," "gift giving," and "Hanukkah celebration." Each category contains several numbers which Mars might as well have found on Google, for all the logic there is to the song selection. In "family," for example, Mars cartwheels between a snarky rendition of "Merry Christmas from the Family" and a tear-jerking "Becoming My Mother." The facile categories are confusing at best; it would have made far more sense to, say, give us a lighthearted first act and save the tearjerkers for the second, instead of yanking the audience confusingly between the two extremes.
Mars undeniably has a lovely voice, but her charm rests largely on the dual qualities of "perky" and "blonde," and her between-song patter relies on a surplus of ooey-gooey sincerity that can't help but ring hollow when one considers that the production runs for almost a month. She's at her best in the show's more upbeat numbers, or when she's playing a character (like a jilted Mrs. Claus, in an utterly incongruous number that clearly freaked out half of the audience, yet was one of Mars' better performances). In these bits, Mars' talent is showcased—as opposed to Mars' niceness, which is what the rest of the show rests on, and frankly is not a particularly interesting quality. Her heartfelt, "Hands Across the Holidays" schtick doesn't hold up for long, particularly given the bewildering way the show is organized, and I left Mars on Life feeling worse about the holidays than I have in some time.