Holiday hilarity abounds in The Newtowne Players’ production of Ken Ludwig’s Christmas comedy, “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
While the show shares a name with the much-loved holiday rhyme, it’s clear that this isn’t the story heard before. For on the night before Christmas when the show begins, two creatures are stirring: a mouse named Amos (played by Andrew Roell) and his human friend, Emily (Sophia Williams).
As Christmas nears, Amos and Emily face a dilemma: Santa Claus missed their house last year, and they’re worried he’ll miss this year, too. The pair are soon joined by Calliope (Meg Pugh), a cheerful, pointy-eared ambassador from the “Elf.B.I,” tasked with investigating what appears to have been a mix-up with Santa’s “naughty and nice” list.
The trio sets off immediately for the North Pole to sort things out – a journey which involves a death-defying plane ride and a crash-landing at Santa’s workshop. But when the reach their destination, they discover that an even more nefarious plot is afoot: the dastardly Sir Guy of Gisborne (Steve Pugh) plans to steal the “naughty and nice” list and sell it to Bloomingdale’s with the help of his hapless henchman, Mulch (Kenneth Faison).
Knowing that the fate of Christmas is in their hands – or paws, in Amos’ case – Emily, Amos and Calliope concoct a plan to thwart Sir Guy, find the list and explain everything to Santa. The plot thickens with the introduction of Amos’ brother of the same name: Amos of Kansas, who just so happens to be an expert swordsman. As the countdown to Christmas continues, the show delights with mistaken identities, swordfights, Christmas-themed rap numbers, a Scooby-Doo-style chase scene and more.
Director Timothy Joyce puts his own mark on Ludwig’s family-friendly comedy with the inclusion of a troupe of proteans (Jeremy Leissner, Connor Heveron, Emily Roell, Blake Meyer and Kehle Hatch), who weave in and out of the action adding special effects and extra color to the scene changes. Trumpeter Sean McKean – who serves as Sir Guy’s personal herald – adds greater comedic flair to every entrance.
While the proteans aren’t included in Ludwig’s original script, Joyce says they were part of his vision for the show from the start. “There was one 5-second joke I wanted to be in the show, and I couldn’t do it with the amount of people I already had,” he said. “So I put as many things into the show as possible to justify casting people to do that 5 second joke at the end.” Ultimately, he says, “The proteans have really made the parts so much better than what I had originally envisioned, and now they’re integral to the show.”
The cast rehearsed for almost three months to bring the production to life, including about an hour of rehearsals a week to perfect the show’s big swordfight. Joyce engaged stage combat instructor Russell Therrien to help perfect the swashbuckling sequence. “I couldn’t have done the swordfight without a professional,” he said. “He choreographed the fight over several weeks, and the cast spent a lot of time practicing.”
Thirteen-year-old Andrew Roell – who does double-duty in the roles of both Amos and Amos of Kansas – is a key player in the swordfight, which he says is one of his favorite parts of the show. Another favorite moment – “The airplane scene,” Roell said, adding, “It was so fun to just scream.”
“My favorite part of the show is the general energy,” said Meg Pugh, who plays Calliope. “The cast is running all around the stage having fun the entire way through.”
Rounding out the show’s creative team are assistant director Aubrey Joyce and stage manager P. Wade Thompson, with set and sound design by Chris Maulden, lighting design by Tom McCarthy, props by Greg Rumpf, set dressing by Millie Coryer-Dhu and costumes by Marie Waltrip.
“The cast and crew have done an excellent job of bring this wacky, funny, zany show to life,” Joyce said. “It’s a holiday comedy for the whole family to enjoy.”
The show runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 17- Dec. 10. There are no performances Thanksgiving weekend. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, military, and students, and $10 for children. Tickets may be purchased at www.newtowneplayers.org or by calling 301-737-5447.
By Monica Meinert of The Newtowne Players