To hear Kyle Vespestad and Monte Riegel Wheeler tell it, they both have on-stage characters, conveniently named “Kyle” and “Monte.”
“Some may say our worst qualities are also very funny,” Wheeler explains. “Kyle is kind of a loveable dope, and Monte is an arrogant jackass. One’s super-serious, one’s super-goofy and fun. We just make that dynamic of opposites that has worked for so many comedic duos in the past work for us.
“We just have a really great time with that volleyball game, that tennis match,” he added.
The duo, who met 21 years ago when they were both cast in the beauty contest send-up “Pageant” at Cabaret Old Town, have become Wichita theater regulars, most often at Roxy’s Downtown, the Cabaret Old Town successor.
For the third year, they’re staging “The Kyle & Monte Christmas Musical” at Roxy’s, beginning this weekend and continuing through Dec. 23.
The Christmas special got its start at a Cabaret Old Town Christmas show, when the two sang medleys of “holiday songs strung together in a really hilarious and sometimes absurd way,” Wheeler said.
When John Hammer took over Roxy’s two years ago, he asked if the two could make a full stage show out of it.
Although the show changes from year to year, the same spirit remains.
“Our whole goal is to …” Wheeler began.
“Make people laugh …” Vespestad added.
“And really share with them a lot of fun holiday music,” Wheeler continued.
The two are assisted on stage by Sam Warner and Austin Ragusin. Shaun-Michael Morse and Andrew Bowers lead the musicians.
New this year is a short, about four-minute film, the two said.
The two try to balance out the humor with the spirit of the season.
“It’s comedy for everyone, and everyone will think it’s funny,” Vespestad said. “It’s not just Monte and I being stupid on stage and making fun of each other for two hours. We’re trying to make people laugh and have fun and celebrate the holiday season.”
In “The Kyle & Monte Christmas Musical,” Wheeler said, “we’re playing really exaggerated versions of ourselves.”
“Cartoony versions,” Vespestad said.
This year includes their takes on many other famous duos – Sonny and Cher, Simon and Garfunkel, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, Bert and Ernie, Laverne and Shirley – in Christmas themes, one of many “quick change” opportunities for the pair that night.
The quick changes return in a trip through the decades, from the 1900s to present, and a take on Christmas carols. The 1930s is to the tune of Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing,” and the 1960s are to the Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreamin’,” they said.
“We don’t want to give away too much,” Wheeler said of the rest of the selections.
The same rapport that Vespestad and Wheeler have on stage extends to the creation of the “Christmas Musical,” they say.
“Sometimes when we write a show together, it’s really difficult to remember who wrote what, because we have a seamless flow of what goes together,” Wheeler said. “One of us will say one thing and a great joke will follow. Sometimes he writes the best lines for me and I’ll write the best lines for Kyle.
“It’s a great balance and a joy to put it together every year,” he added.
“We pretty much know what the other person would say back to the other,” Vespestad said.
The two previous versions of the Christmas show were so freewheeling and gave such an air of spontaneity, the two said, that audience members think it has a high level of improvisation.
But that’s not the case.
“A lot of people think the whole show is improv’d, and it’s kind of funny,” Vespestad said. “We pretty much stay exactly to the script we write.”
“There’s a naturalism that comes in the way we write our dialogue with each other that would appear that it’s improv,” Wheeler said, “but we just have a lively, in-the-moment energy that really looks like it.”
Vespestad added, “It’s a great success when people think it looks like we’ve improv’d it.”
The two – Vespestad just turned 43, Wheeler is about six months younger – keep busy in a variety of Wichita theater venues. They will return to Roxy’s in February and March to reprise their roles of Bea Arthur’s Dorothy (Wheeler) and Betty White’s Rose (Vespestad) for the fourth go-round of “The Golden Girls.”
“There’s a really appealing dynamic between the two of us,” Wheeler said.
‘THE KYLE & MONTE CHRISTMAS SPECIAL 3’
When: Friday to Dec. 23; performances at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays (Thanksgiving off) and alternating between 2 and 6 p.m. Sundays; several performances already sold out
Where: Roxy’s Downtown, 412 ½ E. Douglas
Tickets: $20-$30, available by calling 316-265-4400