Delving into a generous helping of holiday hilarity, Central Alberta Theatre tackles the zany fun of Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some) opening Nov. 17th at the Black Knight Inn.
Penned by Michael Carleton, James Fitzgerald and John K. Alvarez, the production runs through to Dec. 15th, with dinner at 6 p.m. and the performance to follow.
Instead of performing Charles Dickens’ beloved holiday classic for the umpteenth time, three actors decide to perform every Christmas story ever told — plus Christmas traditions from around the world, seasonal icons from ancient times to topical pop-culture and every carol ever sung. Audiences are indeed promised a madcap romp through the holiday season, according to the synopsis.
Directed by the very gifted and well-known local actor Paul Sutherland, the show features Blaine Newton, Eric Wilkinson and Isaac Rice. Lucas Hayden serves as stage manager.
“Right off the bat, it’s expected that they will be doing A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens,” explained Sutherland. “One of the characters really, really wants to do this – it’s his jam. It’s exactly what he’s there to do and he’s a professional and really wants to tell this story.
“But the other two in the cast definitely don’t want to do it – they are sick of it because they see it everywhere, and they play on that joke that it’s done everywhere all of the time. They want to do something a little different, so they come up with the idea of doing every sort of Christmas story we’ve ever heard of in the English-speaking world and beyond and they just try to put it all together on the fly.
“It’s different than any other dinner theatre for sure. It doesn’t have the full-on character stories or the (story) arcs you might expect from other dinner theatres we’ve done in the past. It’s a very different style, and it definitely lends itself to improvisation,” he said.
“When I seriously sat down to look at it from a director’s perspective, I could actually see it in my head as I was reading it,” said Sutherland, who has appeared in countless shows over the years himself. Consistently exceptional in the role of actor, there is no doubt he can take on the mantle of directing with ease and style. Having a vision for the project bolstered his confidence in tackling the project as well.
He had been approached with this play a couple of years ago as it’s one with enormous potential for improv, something Sutherland particularly enjoys.
“I read it, and I really, really liked it. But I waited a year and this season said, yes, I would love to do the Christmas show,” he explained. “I’ll take a crack at it, and that’s how it came to be,” he added of the opportunity. “I was really excited when I started reading it and actually laughed out loud – I was entertained by reading it,” he said.
“I also think I had enough time to sit down and put my mind in the space of a director,” he explained, when asked about the challenge of switching from acting to directing ‘mode’.
Much of the magic springs from the joys of collaboration – something Sutherland said was intrinsic to how the production has taken shape. He also credits his cast’s keen, natural instincts for comedy with enriching and empowering the script itself.
“Having the fortune of having Eric, Isaac and Blaine onstage and then seeing how they started interpreting it…they naturally pulled the jokes out of the script and it was just phenomenal,” he said.
”They came in and knocked it out of the park. It’s true that if you are fortunate to have a team around you – the most skilled people surrounding you – all you have to do is say, I’d like to go down this path, and if everyone is on the team they will do their utmost to go down that path, too.”
Ultimately, Sutherland and his troupe have had a blast crafting the show and hope that audiences chuckle even days later when recalling any number of the scenes.
“The conversation that I want people to walk away with, and when they are driving home, and the next day, is to be saying, ‘Remember that part? It was hilarious! Just to keep laughing about it and being completely and utterly entertained.”
The play does come with a recommendation that it’s suitable for those 14 and up.
For tickets, visit www.tickets.blackknightinn.ca.