ANNAPOLIS ROYAL - It was laugh-out-loud community theatre in Annapolis Royal on the weekend, with the Wayne Currie-directed Norm Foster play Dear Santa drawing good crowds for three performances -- and leaving them laughing.
There will be no lumps of coal for the Annapolis District Drama Group this year.
Currie sat at the back of the house while a cast of talented locals tackled the mostly comical, sometimes tender play that had an often-frazzled Santa caught up in the middle of a series of unfortunate incidents that left the Jolly Old Elf scrambling to fix things.
But sometimes one man’s problem is another person’s solution, and while Santa sees all, the audience can only guess at how the North Pole shambles can be turned around in time for Christmas.
An opening night standing ovation propelled the small ensemble into the Saturday evening edition where the acting was excellent as each character worked through being the bane of Santa’s existence to being part of the solution. It’s classic Foster and a play that works so well at the community level.
Take Nina Habinski as supply train stowaway Kit Bishop, for instance. Just the right tough teen tempered with caring sister. This Alexis Bledel look-alike owned the role and not just her lines. She had the only real singing part in the play and delivered it pitch-perfectly with the help of a handful of elves. Perhaps the highlight of the play.
Miles Leahy obviously loved his role as a frustrated Santa and played perfectly off sidekick Brian Rice who was the gloomy, all-business, chief of staff Algernon Gladstone, the butt of the always-funny Christmas hat joke and the fun-making elves’ friendly taunts.
Simon Bonnington was outstanding as Lou Flapdoodle, the rocket sleigh salesman who irritated Santa to no end, but when the chips were down had the means by which to save Christmas. Was Bonnington funny? Tears-in-your-eyes-from-laughing funny.
Young Sam Cooper took the role of Bozidar and made it his own both with his Russian accent and his nutcracker, soldier-like portrayal – but with a soft side. He had them laughing at almost every mixed metaphor and with Algernon in the stuck-together-with-glue scene was outstanding.
Kudos go to Eloise Mailman who played Santa’s housekeeper Octavia whose crush on the grumbly Gladstone was a touching thread through the play. Mailman was lovable and Broadway-good in the role as she unwittingly helped make things better and worse at the same time.
Small roles as Kit Bishop’s mother and younger sister were enthusiastically played by Nina Habinski’s real-life mother Shelley and younger sister Lily.
Finally, if the real Santa was to select elves, it would be Skiffle (Karen Tomasino), Piffle (Haley Dawn Beatty), Phooey (Linda Hulme Leahy), Balderdash (Colleen Rowland), Yeegads (Rachael Cheechoo), and Fiddlesticks (Alex Hancock). When timing is everything, they were spot on with every laugh and giggle – and who knew elves could sing?
Jane DeWolfe was stage manager and Brian Dickinson was musical director.
Dear Santa ran nights on Dec. 1 and 2 and as a matinee on Dec. 3, maintaining its draw right to the end. With community theatre of this calibre, we can’t wait to see what the Annapolis District Drama Group has lined up next.