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Review: ‘Christmas at the Old Bull & Bush’ at Metro Stage

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One of the best parts of the holiday season is being transported to another time and place, putting our worries on hold, and enjoying the moment with friends and family.

Christmas at the Old Bull & Bush playing at Metro Stage this season accomplishes just that.

Tracey Stephens and Albert Coia. Photo by Chris Banks.

Upon entering the lobby, the audience is immediately transported to the Old Bull & Bush Public House. It is Christmas 1912 in Hampstead, London. The bar is ready and waiting. Tables dot the lobby, inviting music plays, and Christmas lights twinkle.

Guests are handed a program, a lyric sheet, and the opportunity to purchase a popper. This production achieves the Goldilocks of immersive theatre: not too interactive, not too passive, just right. The cast of eight moves through the book of 35 songs and countless slapstick giggles at a well-paced clip.

Written and directed by Catherine Flye, the show has been well-loved by the Washington Metro area since its creation in the late 1990s. The experience and the show itself evoke a familiar, cozy, warm quality as if you’ve seen this show multiple times over the decades, even if, like me, you’re brand new to the DC theater scene.

The cast includes a delightful mix of characters that each have several moments to shine. From young Daisy May (played by Katherine Riddle), with her crystal-clear soprano; to Brian O’Connor’s dashing Chairman, the cast works well together and clearly enjoys their work.

The set design by Carl Gudenius is unfussy and festive and the lighting design by Alex F. Keen contributes to the most poignant moment of the show, “Christmas in the Trenches” (performed in this production by Bob McDonald.)

Perhaps most delightful of all is to bear witness to Catherine Flye, the play’s writer and director, performing with glee “Nobody Loves a Fairy.” Her commitment, lack of pretension, and self-awareness are truly inspirational.

This Christmas I can imagine that I’m not the only one who feels fatigued from the year we’ve experienced. Perhaps your soul could be soothed by spending a couple of hours laughing in the dark at silly jokes and stomping to give your approval. That’s the Old Bull & Bush way and it’s quite cathartic.

At the Old Bull & Bush, if patrons are looking for a pint, a tune, and a bawdy laugh, they will certainly head home satisfied.

Running Time: Two hours and 15 minutes, with one intermission.

Christmas at the Old Bull & Bush plays through December 24, 2017, at Metro Stage — 1201 North Royal Street in Alexandria, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 548-9044, or purchase them online.

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