I asked Santa for a really good, affordable, theater production that is appropriate for younger audiences and, at the same time, fun for adults too. Thankfully, Santa granted me my wish and brought me A Christmas Chaos, the latest production from Elden Street Players’ Theatre for Young Audiences in Herndon. The farce, written by Michael Wehrli, is perfect for those of us who are just a bit weary from sitting through too many holiday productions of A Christmas Carol. This show is a delightful mix of physical comedy and silly, yet clever, humor with an ensemble that is well cast and far more gifted than the average community theater company.
As the show opens, the audience is informed that they will not be seeing the Royal Shakespeare Company doing A Christmas Carol as expected, but rather the Elden Street troupe who have pulled together their own production of the Dickens’ classic in less than seven hours. Chaos, mayhem, and shenanigans ensue. Thankfully, we are watching a talented group of actors who do a superb job at portraying the unprofessional and slapdash cast and crew.
Director Melissa York-Tilley keeps the fast-paced, over-the-top wackiness from getting out of control. She is adept at juggling the comings and goings of the 16 cast members while maintaining energy and solid comic timing.
Larry Keeling is the man who deserves the most credit for the success of this show. He plays the part of the actor playing Scrooge, an over-the-hill actor who longs for another moment in the professional spotlight. Using his voice to good effect, Keeling delivers a tour de force performance as a man trying to maintain his dignity as the show unravels around him.
Jonathan Justin is marvelous as the stage hand who is taking too much medication so he believes he is an actor, although he can’t ever seem to get what play is actually being performed. The two Tiny Tims—that’s right, two—fight over the role. The first, Neal Going, is great fun as he sings, talks with an accent, and generally just hams it up on stage. The second Tim, Trinity Lohr in her first ever production, displays great energy and comfort on stage. Richard Fiske, who is an experienced Shakespearean performer, is charming as the quirky director just trying to get through the show. I worried that Erin Gallalee was going to twist an ankle because she was so believable teetering on very high heels as the Ghost of Christmas Present.
Kudos to Costume Designer Kathy Dunlop who did an especially good job on the costume for Marisa Johnson – who pulled off the difficult task of playing both Mr. and Mrs. Cratchit, at the same time!
Nour Bahri, Kirsten Burt, Michael Hagan, Andrew Lent, Cecily Michelle, Meg Miller, Paul D. Rubenstein, Peter J. Orvetti, and Arielle Seidman round out the very capable cast. Director York-Tilley and Executive Producer Mary Ann Hall chose great props. Ginger Kohles is responsible for the very professionally produced playbill for the show. The rest of the production team – Don Petersen, Laura Baughman, Ben Allen, Jeff Boatright, Karen Schlumpf, Ian Brown, Mike O’Connor, and Sandy Sullivan— are to be congratulated for their fine work.
This show is a nice little holiday gem with many laugh-out-loud moments. If A Christmas Chaos is representative of the quality of performances, I am looking forward to future Elden Street Players Theatre for Young Audiences performances
Running Time: 90 minutes, with one intermission.
The final performance of A Christmas Chaos is TODAY, Sunday, December 16th at 2:30 PM at Industrial Strength Theatre, 269 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon, VA. For tickets, make a reservation here.To view upcoming productions by Elden Street Players’ Theatre for Young Audiences, check out their website.