Even if you’re really busy this holiday season, you should still take two hours to experience the holidays from start to finish at Oregon Cabaret Theatre’s “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some).”
The show has everyone’s favorite holiday tales, abbreviated for sure, mixed up and mashed up. You’ll rocket through scenes and songs from the Nutcracker, Charlie Brown, Dickens, Frosty the Snowman and more in hilarious song and dance accompanied by delicious Dick Hay Pie or a craft cocktail, if you so choose.
Michael Carleton’s “Every Christmas Story Ever Told” is directed by Rick Robinson and choreographed by Valerie Rachelle. Performances began Nov. 20. The venue is filled with pine boughs, red ribbon and holiday lights that create a festive and playful atmosphere.
The cast of three — Stephen Kline as Matt (because Matt Koenig stepped out) and Eleise Moore and Katie Worley Beck as themselves — acquit themselves with aplomb and pizazz even though they were sans those embroidered Christmas sweaters. Pianist Darcy Danielson wears a Santa hat and sits above the confusion high in an eyrie, frequently in the spotlight though sometimes reluctantly so.
Beck, in skirts and slippers, and Moore, outfitted in pants and a muscle T-shirt, battle Kline, in Victorian dress, for control of the stage. Beck and Moore are big on BHCs, or Beloved Holiday Classics. They love contemporary jingles and joys, but Kline’s definition of BHC means only one story, “A Christmas Carol.”
Some scenes in the first act are baffling, like a Christmas game show to the tune of “The Dating Game,” complete with flashing lights, theme music and guest audience appearance — wonderfully wacky with questions to Kline that are impossible to answer. Others, like “The Gift of Maggie” and “Bob Dylan’s A Child’s Tale of Whales” are delightful and confused for all involved.
Thanks to quick and easy props and accoutrements, the Grinch and Keebler elves dance through Whoville, and Gustaf, the green-nosed reingoat (yes, reingoat), tell the same time-honored BHC stories of greed, recognition and reform as “Miracle on 34th Street.”
There are interludes of a sort between each set, telling the stories of Christmas around the world. Norway’s fermented everything, Iceland’s mutton, and Germany’s duels and disasters play out on stage to the amusement and often the open amazement of the cast. Clearly, the performers are dismayed by one nation’s hair-burning tales of candle wreaths that set Christmas angels aflame.
The best parts of “Every Christmas Story Ever Told” come after the intermission, when you might think the pace slows, but instead there are just two focused and hysterical stories.
Beck is Charles Bronson — complete in trench coat, ‘80s hair and gun — as the “Death Wish” cast dances a most hilarious “Flight of the Bumble Bee” in the Nutcracker ballet. But the highlight of the evening is the epic battle between Kline and Moore. Kline finally gets to perform “A Christmas Carol,” except when Moore is on stage and interrupts with “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Kline’s magnificent, multitasking talents are put to the test as he compromises and performs in both scenes simultaneously. Kline’s Victorian dress contrasts with Moore’s New England tough attitude, and his mobile and expressive face responds well to her sappy suicidal smiles.
“Every Christmas Story Ever Told” wouldn’t be complete without a penultimate grand finale that includes every Christmas song ever written. From “Holly Jolly Christmas” to “Gloria in Excelsis Deo,” the cast shifts between the silly and the sublime with just a line or two from dozens of songs. And to end the evening — a delight that I won’t give it away.
“Every Christmas Story Ever Told” continues through Dec. 31 at OCT, 241 Hargadine St., Ashland. Reservations are required for brunch or dinner, and if it’s just starters or dessert you prefer, get to the theater at least a half hour before showtime. For more information or tickets, see theoregoncabaret.com or call the box office at 541-488-2902.
Reach Ashland freelance writer Maureen Flanagan Battistella at firstname.lastname@example.org