Soon the holiday bells will start ringing, so ride a sleigh down to Three Notch Theatre to see the festive and hilarious “Christmas Belles.” The holiday comedy, written by Jamie Wooten, Jessie Jones and Nicholas Hope, ratchets up the chaos and absurdity until it reaches an ending that will fill the whole family with warmth and cheer, even with the sore ribs from laughter.
The play revolves around the antics of three Texan sisters, the Futrelles, whose lives are changed forever when one of them, Honey Ray Futrelle, played by Dawn Weber, tries to direct a production of “The Christmas Story” and finds herself drawn into a wild whirlwind of nauseous actors, technical malfunctions and familial intrigue, all while fending off the invasive and bossy Geneva Musgrave, played by Linda Lagle, who directed the pageant for decades before getting the boot.
One sister, Frankie Futrelle-Dubberly (Laura Hinkle) is pregnant and has a secret she can’t bring to tell her family, while her redneck, mall-Santa husband, Dub (Paul Rose), discovers an anatomical problem one can only describe as pressing. Their cheerful daughter, G.J. Dubberly (Hailey Leukhardt), is avoiding her awkward preacher boyfriend, Justin Waverly (Noah Busby), like a biblical plague, while the third Futrelle sister, the slightly vengeful and fully sardonic Twink (Shannon Foster), is escorted in handcuffs to the event by kindly cop John Curtis Bunter (Mike Sokoloff).
Other kooky characters joining in the mayhem include the eager-to-please Rhonda Lynn Langley (Joanne Fuesel), snobby Patsy Price (Robin Finnacom), and spacey, Christmas-loving Raynerd Chisum (Patrick Shoenberger).
Will Honey Ray’s production come together smoothly in the final hour, or, failing that, survive the absurd onslaught of increasingly goofy shenanigans? Has Twink learned about the consequences of revenge or will she strike again? Will the Futrelles and company be able to learn the values and meaning of Christmas amid all the chaos? The only way to find out is to come see the show.
The Newtowne Players newcomer Hinkle, who plays Frankie, described rejoining the stage: “I had to relearn the world of theater … I haven’t done any real theatre since I was in high school. Being back and relearning ‘stage right’ and ‘stage left’ … I had to keep looking at my hands.”
Veteran Weber (who plays Honey Ray, the most licentious of the sisters Futrelle) said, “It’s a very creative group, so every rehearsal someone would do something incredibly stupid and funny, and we would say ‘Yeah! We like that!’ and Beth [Sanford, the director] would nicely let us put it into the program.”
Jeff Maher, the assistant director, added, “To me, what I thought was great was we had a nice mix of really new people and veterans, so it’s been fun watching the chemistry build — and I think people are going to see that on stage. It’s really a dynamic cast.”
When asked if she had any funny stories about the rehearsal process, the director, Beth Sanford, laughed and said, “It’s been interesting putting on a show in a very busy time of year.”
Aiding Sanford in bringing Christmas cheer to the Three Notch Theatre is stage manager Kathryn Teague. The costumes, which demonstrate that strange, funny, Texan sense of style, were designed by Millie Coryer-Dhu, and the multitudes of holly and/or jolly props are managed by Janine Sanford, Kathryn Teague and Kristen Maher. The play was produced by The Newtowne Players mainstay Finnacom, and lights and sound are handled by Nicholas Ashenfelter and Jay McKulka.
The show runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3:30 p.m. from Nov. 30 through Dec. 16 at the Three Notch Theatre in Lexington Park. Tickets can be purchased online at newtowneplayers.org. Discounts are available for seniors, students, military and children under the age of 12. Wear a favorite “ugly Christmas sweater” to the show for an opportunity to win a handmade Christmas wreath.
By Christopher Michael Joyce of The Newtowne Players