While in Florida for Christmas I went to a production of Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some) by the Masters Theatre Group at the Studio@620. The Studio@620 is an arts gallery and performance space which hosts a diverse range of programmes, including the exhibition of Willful Encounters (at a bus stop) by artist Maria Saraceno, who I had the pleasure of supporting and learning from during a four month project where we photographed and interviewed people at a bus stop near a beachside high-end resort in 2006.
Masters Theatre Group is a homegrown collective: two of the collaborators originally began performing Christmas shows for friends and family at their own homes. The energetic and offbeat script for Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some), by Michael Carleton, James Fitzgerald and John K Alvarez, fits well with the group’s freewheeling, impulsive style.
Nathaniel Beaver, Alexander Whittenberg and Chritopher Futch take on the roles of three actors dead tired of putting on A Christmas Carol for the upteenth mildewed time. Well, except for Alex, who loves A Christmas Carol more than anything, ever, and grows increasingly agitated by his companions’ attempt to run amok with the script. Instead of A Christmas Carol, they agree (against Alex’s wishes) to present a night featuring every single Christmas story ever that anyone can think of, and the script is chockablock full of references to past beloved Christmas classics like It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer as well as international folk myths about Christmas from around the world.
As I’ve spent many hours here in London watching plays featuring unsuccessful attempts at American accents, it delights me to report that my American brethren do no better when emulating the Brits. Alex’s stentorian tones while (repeatedly) enunciating that “Marley was dead, to begin with” are appropriately ponderous, but Nathaniel’s attempts at what I think is meant to be a Cockney accent could use, to say the least, a little more development.
The other impressions featured in the show are very successful, with Chris’s uncanny emulation of Christopher Walken being a particular highlight. Alex’s rapid-fire transitions between Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life and a dour-to-capering Scrooge are also a delight to watch. The gentle and friendly audience participation work well with the enthusiastic crowd, particularly a scene featuring the cast gleefully showering the audience with fortune cookies.
The show drags a bit in the first half. It may have benefited from additional rehearsal to tighten up the transitions between scenes and keep the momentum up throughout. All in all, though, it was a lovely way to ring in the Christmas season.