A cracker of a Christ­mas show

Stratford Press - - News - By ILONA HANNE

Treat your­self to an early Christ­mas present this year, and buy your­self some tick­ets to Strat­ford on Stage’s lat­est pro­duc­tion, Nun­crack­ers.

Re­view­ing the show in time for open­ing night, I was ex­pect­ing chaos, missed lines and room for im­prove­ment. In­stead it was a fan­tas­ti­cally funny, pol­ished and pro­fes­sional per­for­mance that was au­di­ence ready.

Un­der the ta­lented di­rec­tion of Mickie Mills, mu­si­cal di­rec­tor Donna Drum­mond and chore­og­ra­pher Har­riet BradleyArcher, the ac­tors bring writer­com­poser Dan Gog­gins’ script to life and trans­port the au­di­ence to a live stu­dio tap­ing of a tele­vi­sion spe­cial in the base­ment of the Mount St. He­len’s Con­vent by the Lit­tle Sis­ters of Hobo­ken.

While Nun­crack­ers is one in a se­ries of plays by Dan Gog­gins to fea­ture this rag­tag band of nuns, it stands alone in its own right, and you don’t need to have seen the other plays to en­joy this one. Al­though, I’d hope the team at Strat­ford on Stage will con­sider bring­ing more from this se­ries to The Cas­tle.

Mickie Mills plays Sis­ter Mary Regina, a role which could have been writ­ten for her, so well does she step into the (sen­si­ble and plain) shoes of the Rev­erend Mother. Mickie com­mands the stage when­ever she is on it, but never more so than when she sings A Car­ni­val Christ­mas, with her voice bring­ing an emo­tional depth to the song.

An­other strong voice on stage is Rubeana Reader’s, who plays Sis­ter Mary Hu­bert. Her gospel­style ren­di­tion of “It is bet­ter to give than to re­ceive” is one of the many high­lights of the show.

Rubeana and Mickie make a great dou­ble act and set the stan­dard high for the rest of the cast, who step up to the chal­lenge through­out.

Donna Drum­mond’s por­trayal of sis­ter Mary Robert Anne is fan­tas­tic through­out, with a pow­er­fully sung All I want for Christ­mas — (is a one night stand) bal­anc­ing hu­mour — the one night stand isn’t what you think — with a great mu­si­cal num­ber.

Kelsi Bai­ley as Sis­ter Mary Paul Am­ne­sia is well cast. De­spite her youth, Kelsi is able to de­mand and keep the au­di­ence’s at­ten­tion through­out, and is par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive in the times she in­ter­acts with the au­di­ence. It takes real skill to play a role which re­lies on au­di­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion for some of your lines, and Kelsi man­ages it well. She also has a great voice shown off with a beau­ti­ful and poignant ren­di­tion of Santa Ain’t Com­ing to Our House.

Kelsi isn’t the youngest cast mem­ber how­ever, as there are also five young­sters on stage play­ing the pupils from Mount Saint He­len’s Catholic School who have been asked by the nuns to help with the Christ­mas show. They are all great ac­tors and do a good job, with par­tic­u­lar stand­out vo­cal per­for­mances from Char­lie Betts and Ella Coul­ton who sang Joy to the World to­gether beau­ti­fully. All five of the chil­dren have a great stage pres­ence, and play their parts well, with a par­tic­u­larly fun mu­si­cal num­ber — Santa’s Lit­tle Teapot, guar­an­teed to get some laughs.

Fa­ther Vir­gil Manly Trott is played by Stephen En­gel­brecht who showed his true

pro­fes­sion­al­ism at the re­hearsal when, hav­ing lost his voice, he still turned up, mouthing all his lines and play­ing his part well.

De­spite be­ing muted, he was still fan­tas­tic to watch, es­pe­cially as his char­ac­ter tried to film a cook­ing seg­ment of the show. His comedic act­ing was great, and even silent made for a hys­ter­i­cally funny part of the show.

Dan Gog­gins cre­ates ex­cel­lent mu­si­cal plays, but they need great ac­tors, which thank­fully Strat­ford on Stage has plenty of.

The play is well suited to the small and in­ti­mate Cas­tle theatre and the cast are all cho­sen for their roles.

It’s a cracker of a pro­duc­tion that you don’t want to miss.

■ Nun­crack­ers: Novem­ber 10 — 17. Tick­ets $25 adults, $15 chil­dren. Tick­ets from the Strat­ford iSite.

PHOTO / SHAR­RON BETTS

Donna Drum­mond as Sis­ter Mary Robert Anne singing about her Christ­mas wish.

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