“A Christmas Story,” “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Carol” are standards for the holidays.
As the owner/artistic director of the All Puppet Players, Shaun Michael McNamara is proving that “Die Hard” belongs there, too.
For the seventh year, his troupe is presenting “Die Hard: A Christmas Story,” a profane and mischievous program starring puppets. Complete with caroling, gun fights, F-bombs and puppet anarchy, “Die Hard: A Christmas Story” tells the tale of John McClane trying to save the day from master criminal Hans Gruber during a holiday party.
“Nothing is safe and no holiday memory unsoiled while the puppets wreak havoc on Christmas and bring a mischievous holiday spirit to all good little boys and girls,” McNamara says.
The production was born out of McNamara’s hatred of “A Christmas Carol” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He respects companies that put them on, but it’s the same old, same old.
“What I did with ‘Die Hard,’ in a cheeky way, I threw Clarence (from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’) and the three spirits in, so it’s part ‘Die Hard,’ part ‘A Christmas Carol,’ part ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and part insanity.”
Seven years ago marked McNamara’s first foray into holiday shows. He says it was fun to lampoon Christmas.
“Finding songs was fun,” he adds. “I thought a new Christmas tradition could be born out of what we’re doing. It’s becoming that R-rated family tradition.
“The fact that I don’t like kids is always going to make it R-rated. I don’t like catering to them. I have no interest in it. If there are kids, people are less likely to laugh at something rude. They’ll say, ‘I can’t believe they just said that, and I can’t believe that kid heard it.’”
The former Goodyear resident who now lives in Surprise, McNamara founded the All Puppet Players in Fullerton, California. He moved to the Valley with his wife for her job.
“My goal was to stay here for a year and then go back,” McNamara says. “Once I started pitching our shows to theaters around the Valley, it took off — not quickly, mind you. It took a long time to get where we are. There was enough of an interest that I didn’t need to leave.”
The All Puppet Players gives McNamara an excuse to share his love of the 1980s. He adores everything about the decade.
“I’m an ’80s kid,” he says. “Puppets have always been in my life. I love The Muppets. I worshipped ‘The Dark Crystal.’ I was hooked on ‘ALF’ and ‘Explorers.’ You name it. If it had a puppet, I loved it.
“I think there was a part of me that was angry with my career trajectory. I wanted to be the next Jim Carrey.”
That didn’t pan out, but he’s doing well with the All Puppet Players.
“I looked to puppets with desperation, wanting to write my own thing and it turned into lampooning theater,” he says with a laugh. “It was a bit of a radical, throw a fit and see if anybody cares. It happened to work.”
He’s watched audiences get sucked in, not noticing the puppeteers after a while. The future sees movie nights, “try-me shows,” puppet karaoke, sketch and larger stage shows for McNamara.
“We’re going to do ‘Attack of the Video Store,’ where it’s 2010 and our puppets run a video store,” McNamara says. “They get sucked into all of our favorite movies. I get to play with fun scenes and not have to do the whole show. Like with ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ I can do just the boulder scene — which I’ve always wanted to do.
“But this show (‘Die Hard’) is just bonkers. It’s a bonkers, bonkers show. It’s the one show that I can almost guarantee will sell out. Plus, it’s Christmastime. ‘Die Hard’ is a Christmas film. I don’t even know why there’s a debate.”
“Die Hard: A Christmas Story”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. various days through December 30
WHERE: Playhouse on the Park Theater, 1850 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix
COST: Tickets start at $42