By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
Lighten up everyone. If stress and/or seasonal ennui have overtaken your festive spirit and malled it beyond recognition, it’s obvious that you need a holiday show booster. And, like sweaters with antlers and shameless pom-poms on them, holiday shows come in every size and shape in this theatre town.
Herewith, an updated survey of some possibilities this week.
•At the Roxy on 124th St., on the Theatre Network mainstage, the smart, high-spirited sketch comedy trio Girl Brain — Alyson Dicey, Ellie Heath and Caley Suliak — will address the peculiarities and absurdities of the season in their own riotous way. Their new show runs Friday to Sunday. Tickets: theatrenetwork.ca.
•BE Merry!, Ballet Edmonton’s annual evening of dance, music, and song (with the title that speaks volumes), returns to the Varscona Theatre stage Thursday through Saturday. The 2022 edition features dance by the company, and performances by jazz pianist Chris Andrew, vocalist Andrew MacDonald-Smith (who’s also the co-artistic director of Teatro Live!), ESO cellist Ronda Metszies and violinist Neda Yamach. The evening’s host is Ballet Edmonton executive director Sheri Somerville, a chanteuse of note herself with a resumé full of Teatro leading roles. Tickets: balletedmonton.ca or varsconatheatre. com.
•The Best Little Newfoundland Christmas Pageant is back for a 13th season, this edition at the Backstage Theatre. It’s the work of the the delightfully named Whizgiggling Productions, named after the Newfoundland expression that means (approvingly) “acting silly or foolish.”
The play, a stage adaptation of a much-loved Barbara Robinson novel that’s an Nfld. classic, takes us backstage at a small-town Christmas pageant. Ah yes, the volatile world of the amateur theatrical, where the fortunes of the annual town Christmas pageant are in grave doubt. Who ever suspected “the worst kids in school,” the Herdmans, would show up for the auditions? Lured by the prospect of free snacks, they’ve muscled their way into plum roles. The storyline may baffle them completely, but they’ve nailed the spirit of ruthless competition. Will the town’s Christmas tradition survive the assault?
Tickets: TIX on the Square (tixonthesquare.ca).
•If you can’t suppress a teeny spasm of sympathy for Mr. Grinch as you slide inexorably into the figgy pudding season, there’s a show for you. Rapid Fire Theatre’s annual Yuletide musical The Blank Who Stole Christmas is both therapeutic and cathartic, in a festive sort of way. A tribute to both the Grinch and that jauntiest of rhymers Dr. Seuss. An intricate achievement in musical comedy construction, it’s both scripted and improvised.
The gist is that a different guest improviser shows up every night, in costume, to be The Blank, a villain of their own choosing. The Rapid Fire cast of six, who’ve rehearsed their script and their moves, know nothing in advance of the identity of The Blank: a celebrity chef, perhaps, or a rock star? a cartoon personage or William Shakespeare? All will be revealed, on the night.
The score is by Erik Mortimer, a composer/musician/musical director without whom Edmonton theatre would falter. Kate Ryan of the Plain Janes directs; Jason Hardwick choreographs. It runs at the Gateway Theatre through Dec. 17. Tickets: rapidfiretheatre.com
The benighted Ebenezer (that’s Mr. Scrooge to you) appears in two different guises this holiday season.
•At the Citadel, A Christmas Carol is big, lavishly costumed, full of music (with a live band). In David van Belle’s adaptation it’s Christmas Eve, 1949. Which unlocks the whole familiar post-war songbook, It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of the Year, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas and the rest. Not that you’d better wish Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge a Merry Christmas. He’s terrorizing the staff and the in-store Santa at Marley’s, the department store he runs, in a fury that batters everyone around him. And in the iconic role he’s inherited for the first time John Ullyatt is terrifying, and wonderful in the way he charts the tragedy and the last-minute reclamation of the man with permafrost in his heart.
•At the Capitol Theatre in Fort Edmonton Park (and then the Spotlight Cabaret), It’s A Wonderful Christmas Carol: a panto radio play is a mash-up of holiday faves. A cast of four top comedy undertakes a sort of Dickensian ghost story/panto fusion in which Mr. Scrooge (Dana Andersen) shares the stage with puppets, Minions, Edmonton jokes about the continuing fiasco that is the LRT. The music is live, played by Paul Morgan Donald. See the 12thnight preview here.
•Walterdale, Edmonton’s venerable community theatre, opts to raise your spirits with a classic 19th century sparkler, A Fitting Confusion by the Belle Époque French master farceur Georges Feydeau. Zack Siezmagraff, who writes farces himself, directs the high-speed 10-actor Walterdale production that runs through Dec. 17. Tickets: walterdaletheatre.com.