Don’t get Rhan Wilson wrong, it’s not that he doesn’t enjoy the holiday season, he just wants to shed a different light on the whole gift-giving revelry. The producer and brainchild behind the annual Altared Christmas extravaganza takes your common Christmas carol and gives it a little, well, kick in its bloomer-wearing ass. Translating the music of old merry tunes into minor keys and conjuring more than 20 local stars, like Tammi Brown, Dale Ockerman and Patti Maxine, to gather on one stage as various characters, the lifelong guitarist presents a two-hour show each December that aims to rock a “Christmas that Grandma could never have imagined.” There’s plenty of irony and improv throughout a set that ranges from somber duets, heavenly gospel and, of course, brash rock comedy (think “I Saw Mama Kissing Santa Clause” sung by an elderly woman). “When Christmas rolls around a week later and your family feels a little dysfunctional, hopefully you can think about the show, relate to the songs and chuckle,” Wilson says. Mostly, the Altared creator and his all-star ensemble combine boundary-breaking efforts to simply bring people together to see and savor things in a new way. Of his darker version of “Deck the Halls,” Wilson explains: “Even though I’m making fun of a lot of stuff, I’m not making fun of religion. I’m making fun of what we’ve done to the symbol of religion. Going to the Capitola Mall is not being reverent to Christ.” Fueling audience participation, the show encourages concertgoers to dress in the not-so-holiday colors of black and blue, sing, dance—and have a wild time while challenging their own ideas of the season. “It’s not always the Hallmark card,” Wilson says of his notorious production’s eccentric version of Christmas. “There’s real sadness and depression during the holidays … but even as I say this I’m laughing.”
8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12. Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $21/adv, $25/door. 423-8209.