Instead of performing Charles Dickens' beloved holiday classic for the umpteenth time, this holiday season Pit & Balcony Community Theatre has bundled a tidy contemporary theatrical work together titled Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some!) featuring three actors who decide (as the title states) to literally perform every Christmas story ever told -- plus Christmas traditions from around the world, touching upon seasonal icons from ancient times to topical pop-culture, along with every carol ever sung!
The three-member cast consisting of Sharrieff Beamon, Paul Lutenske, and Samantha Stricker, acts out parodies of stories from animated TV specials (Frosty the Snowman, A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, etc.), as well as classic tales like The Gift of the Magi. And in the second act, the actors perform an often-riotous mash-up of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, which turn out to have more in common than you might remember.
According to director Jeff List, the script written by James Fitzgerald, Michael Carleton, and John K. Alvaerez, is relatively new and was originally produced in 2005 and the production is very popular among community theatres across the country, including recent productions in Cincinnati, Orlando, and metro D.C.
“The most challenging part of directing this production is also the aspect I find most rewarding,” explains List. “With a cast of three actors, pressure is on each of them, because each actor has a bigger part than most other productions. That also means I get to work more closely with each actor as he or she creates this wonderful personage on stage. We get to spend much more time on character growth and improvisation that is required by the script, which is more fun for all of us.”
“We decided to go with the actors’ actual names for their characters, so Paul is ‘Paul’, Samantha is ‘Sammy’, and you guessed it - Sharieff is ‘Sharieff’,” notes List. “Paul Lutenske has a wealth of experience from his thirty-plus years in community theatre. 'Paul' plays the Santa Claus who doubted and rejected Rudolph and the Grinch, among others that were antagonists in their stories. He shares some of that cynicism. He probably has the biggest change, as he plays George from It’s a Wonderful Life, so by the end of the play he comes around on the Spirit of Christmas.”
“Samantha Stricker has an undeniable charm about her,” continues Jeff. “She shows acting acumen that belies her relatively young age. 'Sammy' is the dreamer and believer. She is Rudolph. She sees the best of what Christmas can, and maybe should be.”
“Sharieff may have the least experience in principal roles, but shows a natural charisma and makes strong and interesting acting choices. 'Sharieff' is the intellectual voice of Christmas, researching what Christmas means to various cultures. He is a gameshow host with all the answers, but wants a more emotional connection to the spirit.”
Are there any themes or elements within this play that Jeff is trying to emphasize as a director?
“Christmas means different things to different people,” he reflects. :A difference that one can see in different cultures, but also the meaning each person places on the holiday season. Yet, for every difference, some core beliefs are shared. The holiday spirit is about doing good and being good to each other. If not, you may be eaten by a giant cat.”
“The thing many love about the holidays is what frustrates just as many others - crass commercialism. The holidays have come to mean for many the stuff we get and the stuff we have to give. The cheesy and tacky. The latest fad.”
What is it about this production that he feels will appeal the most to audiences?
“This show is fun. Full stop. We have the Christmas cheer, we have the Christmas spirit, but most of all we have the fun of Christmas. The show is fast-paced and irreverent. Plus, this production is atypical in the sense that we are setting the show in a mall. These are mall employees who are here to entertain the customers. They perform in front of a Santa House instead of a lavish Christmas Carol set. The set is both garish and a bit tacky. The actors interact with audience members repeatedly.”
“The improvisation has been fun,” concludes List. “I have a background in teaching and performing improv, so this has been a joy. The cast seems to enjoy the rehearsal times the most when we focus on improv.”
Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some)! Will be performed at Pit & Balcony Theatre from November 30 - December 2 and December 7-9. Friday & Saturday performances start at 7:30 pm and Sunday matinees at 3:00 pm. Tickets are $20.00 and can be obtained by phoning the box office at 989.754.6587 or visiting PitandBalconyTheatre.com.
9th February, 2024