You’d have to have a heart 10 sizes too small not to fall in love with the spirit of Upper Canada Playhouse’s holiday production of Robert More’s Everything I Love About Christmas. It really does manage to bring together all those things, both magical and ordinary, that mean Christmas.
“There are many ways to tell a story about Christmas,” Grandad Barnes (Doug Tangney) informs the audience at the start of the play. “But there are a few things you must have: a tree, a house and a family.”
The family is the Barnes family, father Ted (Jeff Mulrooney), mother Maggie (Meredith Zwicker), daughter Gracie (Jody Osmond) and son Robbie (Clayton Labbe).
There is one other daughter, Susan (Katie Edwards). And therein lies the difficulty for the Barnes family this Christmas eve. A terrible snow storm has swept over the countryside, and Susan is all alone, stranded at a deserted bus station. It will take some kind of miracle to bring her home in time for Christmas.
Miracles can sometimes come with rather pointy ears.
Four elves (Parris Greaves, Ryan Jacobs, Jess Vandenberg and Bruce Tubbe) come to the rescue because “every year somebody gets stuck and we arrive to help them out…” Helping the Barnes family be reunited with their eldest daughter will call for considerable elf ingenuity, and an “alpha cable” sent directly to Santa, who is “somewhere between Hawaii and Vancouver” this Christmas eve. (Alpha cables can only be sent by elves. Don’t try it at home.)
A further complication this busy night will be the Brannigan family, just down the road from the Barnes. There is very little to be joyful about this Christmas for them. Father Brad has lost his job. Their savings are gone. There are no presents, no dinner, very little hope in their household.
Another miracle is needed.
Will these dilemmas somehow be resolved by Christmas Day? Will Susan get home? Will the Brannigans find new hope? Will Santa appear in the very nick of time?
Well, this is a children’s show, so…
The entire cast of Everything I Love About Christmas is strong, and their ability to sing and dance is wonderful. Meredith Zwicker, who is also the production musical director, has showcased the actors’ considerable talents. “The level of energy and enthusiasm in this cast is stupendous,” director Donnie Bowes said. “I know the audience can feel it too.”
This is a show both adults and children can enjoy together. There is much whimsical humour in it that delights.
Santa (wedged into a chimney): “Memo to Mrs. Claus. Stop making all those Christmas goodies.”
Santa (still stuck, moments later): “Memo to self. Stop eating all those Christmas goodies.”
The stage, designed and lit by Sean Free, is versatile and striking, and makes exciting use of a revolving section and some unique special effects.
Toss in the mighty “Rammer”, (you’ll see!) a shadow puppet version of the Christmas story and some serious magic, and you have a winning production at Upper Canada Playhouse.
Tickets for the show (which runs until December 16) are still available, but they are going very fast.
Incidentally, I’m not sure I recall a hippopotamus called Amber at the manger in the original Christmas story. Then again, I might be mistaken. After all, Everything I Love About Christmas proves that anything is possible.