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Edinburgh Fringe 2023

Chriskirkpatrickmas: A Boy Band Christmas Musical

Pacey’s Creek

Genre: Contemporary, Musical Theatre, Theatre

Venue: Pleasance


Low Down

A Christmas Carol meets It’s A Wonderful Life meets… *NSYNC. It’s Christmas Eve 2009: seven years into the world-famous boy band’s indefinite “hiatus”, *NSYNC’s Chris Kirkpatrick has until midnight to make a wish that could change his life forever. A parody musical featuring 12 original songs and plenty of ‘90s nostalgia.


I was never the target audience for *NSYNC so didn’t follow the band in its heyday, but in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s there was no escaping the group’s ubiquitous popularity. Such was their level of fame that, even now, if pressed, I could come close to naming all its members. Or almost all. Chris Kirkpatrick, the actual founder of *NSYNC and the titular character of this deliriously silly musical, was, until this show, a name I wouldn’t recognize. That Kirkpatrick is the show’s titular lead and focus is an immediate clue that this show aims to be snarky and affectionate in equal measure, a goal that this production meets with much élan.

As promised in their promotional materials, show co-creators and co-directors Valen Shore and Alison Zatta cleverly mash up A Christmas Carol, It’s A Wonderful Life and recently past boy-band fandom so that prior knowledge of *NSYNC is not required to enjoy the shenanigans. It’s Christmas Eve 2009, and Chris (played winningly by Shore), wants the band to reunite from their very long “hiatus” and go back on tour. Bummed that bandmate Justin Timberlake didn’t attend his Christmas party and isn’t returning his calls, Chris is feeling adrift in all the Los Angeles holiday cheer. 

Enter the spirit of Marky Mark (Zatta with a very game Boston accent), the name and persona Mark Wahlberg dropped when he left the Funky Bunch and the music industry to focus on acting. With a trusty boom box, Marky Mark transports Chris back to the early days of the band to remind him of the twists and turns he and the band had as they found great fame and fortune, or at least thought they’d found it and would keep it.    

Chriskirkpatrickmas wins over the audience right away with a brilliantly catchy opening song and follows that number with one winning tune after another. The score is terrific, abetted by an ensemble that brims with talent and performs Lili Fuller’s spirited and choreography with panache. Special mentions must be made of standouts Nicole Wyland, who has a gleeful time as solo-superstar-in-the-making Justin, and Emily Lambert, who in no way resembles corrupt record producer Lou Perlman but carries him off with her big voice and theatrical presence.     

Though it pains me to be a bit of a Scrooge amidst this fun fest, I will point out two areas where there’s a bit of coal in the stockings. The last quarter of the show loses its momentum, possibly because of one slow-tempo ballad too many in the home stretch. More problematic is the distracting idea of Marky Mark as an spirit guide/angel. Mark Wahlberg’s violent and racist teenage past is much-documented and well-known, and though Wahlberg has tried to make amends for that behavior in adulthood, if Marky Mark — who very much represents the younger, problematic Wahlberg — is going to be presented as a knowing spirit guide, the show needs to find some way to acknowledge his mistakes and his growth.        

But these are minor quibbles in a majorly fun show that boasts great songs and much spirit. Shore and Zatta are talents to keep an eye on, and they should be proud of this Christmas gift to Fringegoers, because Chriskirkpatrickmas: A Boy Band Musical is a delight.