BWW Review: FARNDALE AVENUE HOUSING ESTATE TOWNSWOMEN'S GUILD DRAMATIC SOCIETY'S PRODUCTION OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL - Opens New Georgetown Palace Playhouse
The Georgetown Palace Playhouse brings us silly Christmas fun from across the pond with FARNDALE AVENUE HOUSING ESTATE TOWNSWOMEN'S GUILD DRAMATIC SOCIETY'S PRODUCTION OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL by David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin, Jr, based on the work by Charles Dickens. In the United Kingdom, Christmas 'panto' is an annual holiday tradition. Panto is of course short for pantomime and includes send ups of fairy tales (or other well known stories) with over the top characters and lots of audience participation. The Georgetown Palace production, directed by Jonathan Young contains all of these elements and more.
We all know the story of Scrooge and the three ghosts who visit him on Christmas Eve, and it's a good thing we know the tale by heart because the members of the Farndale Dramatic Society's version goes so far off the rails the plot is difficult to follow. But the audience doesn't mind the lack of plot points because they are far too busy laughing at the antics on stage. The cast of characters include: Thelma (Gerry Hansen) who plays Scrooge with an excess of verve, bordering on obsessive, Mrs. Reese (Jake Maspero) who plays several roles, including Tiny Tim and who otherwise is ringleader of the circus. Felicity (Sonya MacFarlane) who plays Fred and Little Fan, adds to the festivities with her seasonally inspired dances. The dottering matron Mercedes (Jerry Brown) rounds out the madness with Gordon (Sean Randolph) as the befuddled Stage Manager trying to keep the whole thing afloat by filling in roles as needed and jumping to Mrs. Reece's orders. The script calls for a couple of the roles to be played as men in drag, it's a part of the experience and has centuries of British tradition behind it going back to Shakespeare.
While the entire production isn't perfect, I seriously doubt that anyone in the audience noticed a thing lacking. Such is the freewheeling world of holiday panto. Jonathan Young puts his cast through their comic paces with gusto and a no-holds-barred style that is infectious. The cast is hilarious but it's Jerry Brown, in drag as Mercedes, who steals the show. His timing and physical comic chops are superior and I looked forward to every entrance he made onstage. Gerry Hansen as Thelma embodies the essence of the panto style of over the top characterization with her Scrooge. And Jake Maspero channels a great Dame Edna Everage as the bossy Mrs. Reece. This is her circus, they are her monkeys and she makes them all dance to her tune, no matter if it's music only she can hear. There were a few sloppy moments, but they are forgivable because they are not only funny, but this is a highly difficult theatre to produce to perfection. The bigger chaos on stage, the more choreographed the action must be, both on and off stage. The backstage crew deserves extra kudos for keeping the action moving and the jokes rolling. Gretchen Johnson's scenic painting and Carrie Lindquist's set design are inspired cheesy fun that I adore. Fath Castaneda's lighting design is colorful and makes the most of the new space of the Palace Playhouse. Huge props to the builders who transformed a dance studio into the new performance space, just around the corner from the former location. I had the opportunity to see the building in process and the efforts of the build team are nothing short of miraculous. I'm looking forward to seeing what magic will be brought to the new Playhouse home.
I highly recommend FARNDALE AVENUE HOUSING ESTATE TOWNSWOMEN'S GUILD DRAMATIC SOCIETY'S PRODUCTION OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL at the new Georgetown Palace Playhouse as a rare holiday treat filled with laughter and absolute silliness. Be ready for goofy giggles and audience participation. Enjoy your holiday British style!
FARNDALE AVENUE HOUSING ESTATE TOWNSWOMEN'S GUILD DRAMATIC SOCIETY'S PRODUCTION OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL
by David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin, Jr, based on the work by Charles Dickens
The Georgetown Palace Playhouse
*New location - 216 W 8th Street, Georgetown, TX
November 30 - December 30
Running Time: 2 hours 20 minutes with one 15 minute intermission
Tickets: $28 - $30, georgetownpalace.com or (512) 869-7469