Beckwith to close season with mishmash of Christmas tales
DOWAGIAC — Beckwith audiences will not just witness one BHC — or “Beloved Holiday Classic” — retold on stage during the local community theater’s last show of the 2017 season.
From the dastardly antics of the Grinch to the classic tale of Frosty the Snowman, the three-person cast of the Dowagiac playhouse’s next production will be tasked with recreating, as the name of the play states, “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)”
The local theater is hosting its production of the holiday comedy the next two weekends, Dec. 8-10 and 15-17. Shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. Sundays.
Tickets cost $10, and may be purchased at the box office at the time of the performance. All active and retired military personnel will be admitted free of charge this Saturday.
The comedy, written by Michael Carleton, James FitzGerald and John K. Alvarez, crams “just about every Christmas story into an hour and a half,” said Jennifer Shoemaker, director of the upcoming Beckwith show. Opening with a botched attempt at retelling of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” the three-person cast decides to jettison doing just one BHC in favor of doing them all, while sprinkling in a little Christmas trivia.
From Yukon Cornelius to the Norelco Santa Claus, nearly every single Yuletide character will make an appearance in the show — though, given its length, each Christmas tale will get 10 minutes of stage time or less, Shoemaker said.
“It’s like if the Cliffs Notes versions of these stories had Cliffs Notes,” said James Huffman, one of the performers in the show.
Huffman and his co-stars — fellow Beckwith veteran Denise Miller and Sarah Bianchi, a regular of Buchanan’s Tin Shop Theatre who is making her Dowagiac debut — will portray 10 or more characters throughout the show, donning different props to bring them to life.
“I love it,” Miller said about the show. “It’s like instead of just doing one show, we’re doing 10. It helps me grow as an actress, because I get to do so many different things on stage.”
All three performers have experience performing in these sorts of slapstick, fast-paced comedies — Huffman and Bianchi both have done plenty of improvisational comedy at various theaters, while Miller starred in a similar-style of production, “The Iliad, The Odyssey and All of Greek Mythology in 99 Minutes or Less,” earlier this year at the Beckwith. The trio have never worked together, though, and, with such a small cast, developing strong chemistry was a must to make the show work, they said.
Thankfully, after spending just 45 minutes at Shoemaker’s house cracking jokes amongst each other their first night of practice, the director knew she had found the right actors to pull it off.
“We are all pretty loud, confident and sarcastic, so we were able to bond pretty easily — mainly through making fun of each other,” Miller said.
With so many different tales crammed into the performance, audiences will be in for an exciting and hilarious evening, Shoemaker said. While the show is focused around the holiday, even Christmas-haters will get something out of the show, the director said.
“There is something for everybody,” Shoemaker said. “You will definitely come away laughing.”
Beckwith Theatre’s production of “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)” is sponsored by First Source Bank, Deck the Halls and Wood Fire Restaurant. For more information or to reserve seats, people may call the theater at (269) 782-7653 or visit beckwiththeatre.com.
Director: Jennifer Shoemaker
Cast: Sarah: Sarah Bianchi
James: James Huffman
Denise: Denise Miller
Lighting/Sound Design: Lloyd Whitmyer and Matt Davidson
Poster/Art Design: Mandy Lattin
Photographer: Rebecca Kellogg Steenbeke, Blue Print Photography
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