“When we need Santa, I get a phone call,” says Jerry Lee.
Since first donning St. Nick’s suit nearly two decades ago, the calls have come in almost every year. First performing as part of a Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington holiday show in the ’90s, Lee has now diversified his venues for spreading merriment.
“Why me?” was his initial response when asked to play Santa. Standing six feet and six inches high, he was told that having a taller Santa made the elves with whom he appeared on stage “more elegant.” Once the suit was made, there weren’t many people up to filling it, and so Lee’s role as Santa was set — particularly after a friend on Capitol Hill asked him to be Santa at a Christmas party.
Even with a custom-made suit, becoming Santa is no easy feat. To complete his transformation, Lee adds a wig, a beard, a hat, and a large amount of rubber padding, though, as he observes, he “needs less padding every year.”
What of Santa’s inevitable duties, though? Not all children — or their parents — are equal, it seems. “One time, I had a very tech savvy 7-year-old who asked for a very specific ipad with accessories,” Lee recalls. “I looked at his parents for a sign as to yes or no, but they just stared.
“Most parents wink and nod,” he continues. “Some look panicked, ‘No, she can’t get a dog!’ So I’ll say something like, ‘I don’t know if I can get a dog on my sleigh.'”
At this year’s GMCW show, Rewrapped, Lee is performing a parody of Adele’s “Hello” entitled “Ho Ho,” as well as appearing in the finale, “Christmas on Broadway.” This year is actually the most Santa-heavy GMCW show Lee has performed, but he’s excited and happy to see everyone who comes out for the performance. “After the show I’ll be in the lobby to meet people and take pictures,” he says.
However, Lee will be happy to avoid a repeat of perhaps his most nerve-racking moment as Santa when a young girl, asked what she wanted for Christmas, “stared incredulously and said, ‘Didn’t you get my letter?'”
The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington performs Rewrapped on Saturday Dec. 12, at 8 p.m. and Sunday Dec. 13, at 3 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U St NW. Tickets are $25 to $63. Call 202-293-1548 or visit gmcw.org.
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