BWW Review: CHRISTMAS BELLES at Wichita Community Theatre
From December 4th through the 15th, Wichita Community Theatre presented another Jones, Hope, Wooten Comedy Christmas Belles. For those unfamiliar to this show by the trio writing team, Christmas Belles is a lot like the film Waiting for Guffmann where a community of very 'non-union' actors come together for the 'day of the show y'all' and put on a Christmas, nativity play that seems to not go quite as intended. Starring Dan E. Campbell, Jami Thomas, Lana K. Carlson, and directed by Mark Schuster, Christmas Belles was a delightful comedy to the end of 2019 for Wichita audiences.
Wichita Community Theatre prides itself on being a 501c3 non-profit organization that runs entirely off volunteer helpers. The show itself had a running time of being a little under two hours with one intermission; act one was fifty minutes. Set in the Tabernacle of the Lamb Church in Fayro, Texas, the set designed by retired firefighter Rick Patterson gave this old church turned theatre the exact setup director Schuster was looking for his show-a diverse theatre in the round capable of showing both backstage and onstage scenes taking place in the church or super mart for instance.
The play begins with a Christmas Pageant directed by Honey Raye Futrell (Jami Thomas). She and her sisters headline the planning along with Twink Futrelle (Claire Wehry) a prisoner and noticeably pregnant Franke Futrelle Dubberly played by Lindsay Unruh whose baby seems to be quite stuck in being delivered. Other players arrive including Rhonda Lynn Lampley played perfectly by Lana K. Carlson. Carlson's costume designed by Mary Tush Green was simple with a Christmas sweater and black leggings. The sweater, however, had cute little ornaments on the back replicating the shape of a bum where there were placed and sewn. Carlson's pacing, beats, and acting are something worth mentioning because it was natural, comical and appropriate. Wehry was another standout having a matured presence on stage especially during her monologue regarding her illustrious crime playing with a lighter as a bit of pyro maniac. The holiday show would be remised without Santa Claus played by John Dalton-White in the role of Dub Dubberly who happens to have constant back pain. I sat in the front row, house-left opening night. A few scenes took place in that area and in past shows it has been concerning if those seats are too close to comfort, but all actors did a great job respecting distance between audience and actor. Transitions were lovely to aided quickly by carols of "Feliz Navidad" and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" played by sound designer Kenneth Mitchell and operator and brother to director, Dan Schuster.
Highlights of the night and I do mean high lights came from lead stage couple Baylele Braswell in the role of Gina Jo and Emmanuel Cockrell as Justin Waverly. The two happen to eat special brownies with marijuana in the batch right before entering for the main pageant as Mary and Joseph respectively and all comedy breaks loose. As a reviewer, you need to show very little reaction to performance and reveal the reaction within the review. During this euphoric scene, I couldn't help but laugh out loud at hilarious 'bad' acting due to Mary and Joseph getting stoned, especially raised as a former staunch Catholic. Finally, another actress worth mentioning came from Dawn Schake in the dream role of Miss Geneva Musgrave. This part had some of the best dialogue attached centered around show business and stage management.
Up next, Rumors will take place from March 11th through the 22nd and is directed by Steve Miotto. For more information, be sure to visit their website at www.wichitact.org or by visiting their Facebook Page via this link.