MOORHEAD – Presenting Theater B’s holiday production “Yule Be Jolly,” director Pam Strait pointed out that in nearly 20 years with the troupe, this was her first musical.
After watching the show you will wonder why it took so long.
Kind of a Christmas jukebox musical, the show weaves a light storyline around secular standards for a tight 90-minute show that’s, well, cheerful and bright.
The idea came to Strait last summer when the troupe was planning their season and the end result said, “Hey, let’s play a play! enthusiasm and energy.
Strait wrote the show with Kevin Kennedy, theater director at Fargo South High, and Theater B ensemble members Jacob Hartje and Scott Ecker.
Hartje gets one of the plum pudding roles as Rudolph, “Santa’s Favorite Reindeer”. Except the male pits the big guy against, feeling the need to stay home with Clarice (a nice nod to the 1964 Rankin / Bass special, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”) and their nameless fawn. . Santa takes the news harshly as he wants to bounce back from a Christmas disappointment in 2020, but he’s pitched for another loop when it looks like all the other reindeer are catching COVID and the elves go on strike. All this makes Santa’s face turn as red as his costume.
Ryan Scoble has the charisma to embody the great man, but also an imposing physical presence and a voice that makes elves and reindeer tremble when they make the rogue list. This voice also becomes tender when Santa Claus sings. Is there something Santa Claus can’t do?
Interestingly, the two current stage portrayals of Santa Claus (also played by Paul Bougie in “Elf” from the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theater) show him less as a cheerful old elf than a grumpy old man who could stand tall. to get coal in its own downstairs. .
Spoiler alert: Kris Kringle rekindles her joy, everyone reunites with the help of an old friend, and Christmas is saved, just like any special happy holiday.
What makes this show so special is the cast. With a simple yet precise set by Nick Schons, it’s the performers who really sparkle. That’s to be expected from members of the ensemble, like Hartje, who shines like Rudolph, and Missy Teeters, who stepped in on short notice to play Santa’s shy underling, Sugar Cookie.
More of a surprise was Monika Browne-Ecker, who is just as horny as trade union elf, Gingerbread, as she delivers a sweet little song and dance to “(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays”.
Tanya Weets is best known as a singer than an actress, but she both embodies Clarice’s strong will and hits her on the nose with “All I want for Christmas is you”. A true pro, she doesn’t try to match Mariah, but rather works with the duo, pianist Jim Gurney and bassist Max Johnk, who accompany each piece with lively accompaniment.
As the frontman of local polka-rock band The Meat Rabbits, Matt Brunsvold is used to putting on a show. As an ice cream-loving Elf Snowball, he brings laughter and keeps smiles on for “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
Teeters and Jeanie Smith-Murphy team up for the cheeky “Text Me Merry Christmas” which makes you realize that one of the only flaws in this show is that there could have been a few more duets.
In this introduction, Strait points out that Theater B often tackles serious issues in productions, but not in this show. The subtext of workers’ rights, health care, and bullying are all there and might warrant a post-show discussion, but “Yule Be Jolly” works best as a feast for the eyes and ears. It’s a perfectly pleasurable indulgence and a wonderful way to rekindle holiday cheer at the end of the season, keeping your title promise.
What: “Yule Be Jolly”
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday December 17 and 18 and 2 p.m. Sunday December 19
Or: Theater B, 215 10th St. N., Moorhead
Info: Spectators must wear a mask and present proof of vaccination or a negative test result, by PCR or Antigen test, no later than 72 hours before the show. Tickets range from $ 12 to $ 25;