Written, directed, produced and performed by Toronto-based actor and BC native Izad Etemadi, A Very Leila Christmas reunites its audiences with the endearingly sassy Leila –a vibrant and stylish Iranian woman with a beard. I was lucky enough to experience this truly one-of-a-kind Christmas special, featuring Lyla Miklos, at its Hamilton premiere at the Staircase Café and Theatre.
Leila first won the hearts of her audiences in Etmadi’s original solo show Borderland and her popularity lead to her own show, Love With Leila, which played to sold out houses at the Hamilton and Toronto Fringe Festivals this past summer.
A newcomer to Canada, Leila works a 9 to 5 as a receptionist at Rogers Wireless and pays $2900/month for her Barton Street apartment, and is celebrating her first ever Christmas. She is in awe that one can “drink wine with the opposite gender and not get arrested” in her new country, and cannot wait to wake up Christmas morning with presents under her tree (which the audience joyfully helps her decorate), from the infamous Santa Claus –the “Jesus Christ of Christmas.” But when Santa doesn’t drink Leila’s almond milk and cookies, Leila is forced to travel to the North Pole aka Limeridge Mall and find out what went wrong.
The atmosphere in the Staircase’s studio space was undeniable. The audience was buzzing with excitement and having a blast before Leila even set foot on stage. Unlike any other performance I’ve attended, not only is the audience allowed to drink their favourite wine or beer and snack on popcorn in the space, they are also encouraged to keep their cell phones on and take photos, videos and tweet with the established hashtag #LeilaNation throughout the show.
Etmadi needs nothing but a bare stage and himself to command his audience. His energy is palpable and contagious as he sings and dances around to Leila’s own renditions of her Christmas favourites –my personal favourite being the hilarious “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” Which includes five seasons of The Real Housewives of Vancouver, six pairs of Uggs and, of course, seven twerking lessons. The guest of the evening, Lyla Miklos proves to be a valuable addition to the performance with her outstanding singing voice and quirky presence.
This entertaining and interactive piece of theatre will make you laugh, cry, sing, dance, teach you that happiness equals kale smoothies and leave you undoubtedly inspired and wanting more. Leila is a force to be reckoned with and is surely not to be missed!
A Very Leila Christmas runs from now through December 19th at the Staircase Café and Theatre (27 Dundurn Street North, Hamilton). Tickets are $15. More performance dates to be announced in January 2015. Follow Leila on Twitter to stay updated at www.twitter.com/LoveWithLeila or www.izadetemadi.com.