Who doesn’t love a good Christmas story? In fact, who doesn’t love every good Christmas story? A quartet of rambunctious performers tries to cover all bases, and lovingly satirize all – well, most – of the most treasured holiday tales in Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some). It makes for an irreverent, and quite enjoyable, evening.
The four-member cast 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 the lyrics of some of the most famous Christmas carols come under the microscope too. 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.
The script, written by Michael Carleton, James Fitzgerald, and John K. Alvaerez, has been around for several years, and for the new production it’s been tweaked with a few references to current events. Some of the jokes seem too familiar – for instance, a segment about fruitcakes recycles a perennial Johnny Carson gag. And a speech about how Santa’s annual visit defies the laws of physics sounds suspiciously like a well-known Spy Magazine humor piece. But for the most part, this is a funny and clever show.
Director Mariangela Saavedra’s high-energy production makes the most of a talented cast. It takes a little while for the actors to find their groove – a few of the early routines seem strained and in need of some more polish – but once they do, the show works quite well. Jim Broyles mostly plays the incredulous straight man, while Brian Weiser and Kyle Paul Dandridge are the outlandish eccentrics frustrating him at every turn.
Teresa Nutter rounds out the cast as an elf who sardonically reacts to the events around her. She’s mostly silent, though; the show would work better if it gave her more to do. In one skit, Dandridge plays a sassy female commentator on the Macy’s Parade; while he’s quite funny in the role, I would have preferred seeing Nutter given more time in the spotlight.
It’s all performed at the Stagecrafters Theater, on a set suggesting a house under construction – left over from Stagecrafters’ recent production of Clybourne Park. The unfinished walls and woodwork fit this show’s casual tone well.
Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some) is full of high spirits, and it’s got satire that’s intelligent without being obvious. In its own small way, it makes the season merry and bright.
Running Time: One hour and 45 minutes, including an intermission.
Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some) plays through December 23, 2016 at Casabeuna Cultural Productions, performing at The Stagecrafters Theater – 8130 Germantown Ave., in Philadelphia, PA. For tickets, call the box office at (773) 633-6402, or purchase them online.