A Dual Critics Review
St. Augustine’s Limelight Theatre is staging the wildly entertaining “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some)” during November 22 – December 22, 2019 in the Koger-Gamache Black Box Theatre. The play, written by Michael Carleton, James FitzGerald and John K. Alvarez, was initially staged in New Jersey in 2003 and has become a popular holiday choice for venues throughout the country.
Limelight’s version is directed by Shelli Long, and features Craig Wickless, Cameron Hodges, and Kyle Reeves, who portray three actors planning a Christmas show. Craig is well known at Limelight for past roles which have included “Heathers: The Musical,” “The Full Monty,” and “Hello Dolly.” Cameron is making his local debut. His background includes theatrical studies at Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts and a notable appearance at the Seattle Intiman Theatre as Don Quixote in “Quixote!” Kyle has appeared in a number of local productions, which have included the roles of Hovstad in Limelight’s “An Enemy of the People” and Sam Hendricks in ABET’s “Wait Until Dark.”
“Every Story” is a riotous portrayal of Christmas characters which includes animated descriptions of Christmas traditions around the globe and retellings of favorite holiday stories with multiple twists. And audience participation. And it’s one of the two funniest shows we’ve had the honor of reviewing this season (Theatre Jacksonville’s “Something Rotten” was also hilarious).
The play takes place on a set which depicts a classical London street scene in winter. Craig, the most mature of the trio, has no doubt in his mind that they will, of course, be staging Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” as they have in past years, and begins the play by declaring that “Marley was dead to begin with.”
Craig’s partners have different ideas. Why tell the same old story in the same old way over and over? It’s time for old stories to be told differently, time for new stories, time for fast-paced stories. And time for costumes, many costumes.
It’s difficult to summarize the show, as so many stories are recalled, often mixed together, and brought to life at top speed. The cast portrays parodies of stories that range from ancient history to animated TV specials, and include classics like O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi.” Hanukkah and Kwanzaa traditions are explained. “Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer” was off-limits due to copyright issues, but that didn’t deter this fearless trio, who found a new Christmas hero. And in the second act, the cast presented a mix-up of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Carol” which was cleverly presented.
We cannot praise the theatrical skills displayed by this energetic cast highly enough. The show is physically demanding and requires stamina and split-second timing from beginning to end.
Director Shelli Long is Limelight’s musical director and property master; this is her 28th year of show business. Francesca Bellavista was the skillful stage manager, who kept track of the fabulous costumes by Kal Peterson.
Additional Crew Members included Ryan Walker (Production Manager), Shelli Long & Dom Grasso (Scenic Designers), Carl Liberatore (Lighting Designer), Brad Cooper (Sound Designer), Nancy Grasso (Scenic Charge Artist), and Hannah McCowan (Light and Sound Board Operator).
You’ll have a very Merry Christmas if you see this show! The theatre is located at 11 Old Mission Avenue; ample free parking is available on the premises. Of note: Something we just discovered – Farmhand KCHN at 1280 N Ponce De Leon Boulevard is a café with great coffee and food that’s just two blocks away.
Seating in the black box theatre is limited, so call for reservations before you go. Visit limelight-theatre.org or call 904-825-1164 for additional information.