You’ll arrive at the bar, grab a brew – Hoppy Holidays, maybe? – and notice that only one of the three actresses (Sheila Snow Proctor, Chickspeare’s executive director) is gearing up for another retelling of old Ebenezer Scrooge being visited by ghosts. The other two actresses (Tanya McClellan and Lane Morris) are tired of that play. No, make that sick of that play, like many of us who have been there, seen that. They hijack the performance and end up doing something else entirely.
You’ll be glad they did.
It may feel impromptu, but the Chicks, from Charlotte’s all-female Shakespeare troupe, have been planning this send-up for months. Two Children’s Theatre veterans, Chickspeare’s artistic director Joanna Gerdy and Andrea King, are helming the madcap ship, Gerdy as director and King as her assistant. Anne Lambert, a fixture on the area’s theater scene, and Kim Brown are co-producing along with Proctor.
(A fun Gerdy touch: The set is designed to look like a life-size advent calendar.)
“The audience ends up in this crazy world, where there’s singing and tons of toasting and audience interaction and a surprise gift in the end,” Proctor said.
The comic romp – featuring Santa, The Grinch, Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman, George Bailey from “It’s a Wonderful Life” and just about every other character from holiday lore, movies, cartoons and TV – is a little different each night based on the audience. And because there’s improv involved.
The production’s writers, Michael Carleton, James FitzGerald and John K. Alvarez, mention, celebrate or lampoon virtually everything you can think of related to the holidays. “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” gets its due, as does “Miracle on 34th Street.” All the holidays celebrated this time of year – Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas – have a place in the play. And that old, puzzling staple of Christmas past – fruitcake – also gets more than a passing mention.
This fast-paced (it’s only 90 minutes) and interactive whirlwind features singalongs of the carols you know by heart, plus beer and a sleigh ride! OK, not quite, but everyone will get to board a bus and head to NoDa Brewing’s original location to see the performance.
“People have been so divided recently,” said Proctor. But it’s time for a nasty campaign season to give way to a joyous holiday season. The Chicks are just the fun-loving gals to facilitate the transition.
“What we do best is bring people together,” said Proctor about Chickspeare’s mission. “Our vision is that 55 people will board that bus as strangers, and – at the end of the evening, having laughed, cheered and toasted – step off as friends.”
“Every Christmas Story Ever Told – and then some!” runs from Dec. 9–11 and Dec. 16–18. Friday and Saturday shows are at 7 p.m., and Sunday shows are at 2 p.m. Audiences will gather at NoDa Brewing Co. (2921 N. Tryon St.) and take the Joy Ride Bus to the N. Davidson St. taproom for the performance. Tickets are $24 in advance and available online at chickspeare.com. (They’ll be $28 at the door.) Seating is limited to 55.
Featured photo: Weldon Weaver.