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Wednesday, December 10,2008

Evergreen glow

Evergreen glow Third telling of 'Every Christmas Story' still entertains

by Mary C. Cusack
REVIEW

Some people avoid live theater because they find it intimidating or pretentious.

Some people avoid live theater because they find it intimidating or pretentious. With its holiday production, “Every Christmas Story Ever Told,” Williamston Theatre scrapes those fears away like a squeaky wiper on a sleet-covered windshield. This show is warm, inviting and about as pretentious as a Christmas tree Jell-O mold with marshmallows and shaved carrots.

The structure of the play mirrors two of its featured characters, those venerable Rankin/Bass characters from “The Year Without a Santa Claus,” Heat Miser and Snow Miser. That is to say, it runs hot and cold.

Too much time is spent setting up the premise of the play, in which two of three actors who are supposed to be putting on a production of “A Christmas Carol” decide they are fed up with the dark classic and instead want to do an improvised show that pays homage to all of the “Beloved Holiday Classics.” The play also too often revisits the premise that Chris (Chris Korte) is a Scrooge who must be convinced to get into the manic spirit like colleagues Joseph (Joseph Albright) and Aral (Aral Gribble). These moments slow the play down and waste valuable time during which another holiday character or tradition could be lovingly skewered.

That said, when the play connects, it hits a home run. The most gut-busting moment comes when Korte plays a stereotypical spittin’ Scotsman who spews guttural utterances about Christmas in his homeland. Akin to being in the infamous “watermelon seats” at a Gallagher concerts, front row audience members may find themselves shrinking away as Korte sprays his words.

As the show’s straight man, Korte’s expression of exasperation is too formulaic, but he makes up for it in the climatic scene in which he flips effortlessly between George Bailey and Scrooge while the boys mash-up versions of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Carol.”

Albright and Gribble are fearlessly committed to the demands of their roles, running, dancing and prancing their way through characters and costume changes.

After three consecutive years, Williamston plans to hang this show up for a while after this production. This time around, there’s a new two-story set and some updated cultural references, proving that Sarah Palin is still good for a laugh.

The finale is a fanatic tour-de-force medley of almost every Christmas carol, secular and sacred. The medley is well-written, and impeccably performed, leaving the audience in at least a temporary glow of holiday optimism.



‘Every Christmas Story Ever Told’
Williamston Theatre
Through Dec. 21
8 p.m. Thursday and Friday
3 p.m. & 8 p.m. Saturday
2 p.m. Sunday
122 S. Putnam, Williamston
$18-$24
(517) 655-7469
www.williamstontheatre.com




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