By Stephanie Giunta
“What does today’s audience want in Christmas?” was one of the first questions posed at the onset of Smithtown Performing Arts Center’s Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!). The cast promised a jocular twist on the beloved holiday classics and a fresh look at timeless tales injected with modern-day pop culture — and they delivered. In fact, I think I heard Santa’s “Ho! Ho! Ho!” in both laughter and solidarity all the way from the North Pole.
The show, a whimsical combination of vaudeville, ad-lib, and traditional narration, was originally written by Michael Carleton, James FitzGerald, and John K. Alvarez, and debuted in 2003 in Cape May, New Jersey. For the past 20 years, the show has been adapted across the country, and kept fresh and new with the poignant inclusion of topical media narratives. Even Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift made the cut!
Will Logan (Will), sets the stage by performing the timeless Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol. Heather Legnosky (Heather) and Richard O’Sullivan (Rich) concede, but only because they are desperate to work to qualify for health insurance. Claiming the audience has grown bored of the same seasonal production they put on year after year, they convince Will to add a little spice to the performance —by cramming every Christmas story and holiday tradition into a comical hurricane of a variety show. And with this irreverent mash up, no Christmas carol or reference is safe. Especially your fruitcake.
Directed by Jordan Hue, the trio takes the audience through a smattering of seasonal favorites, including The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and It’s A Wonderful Life. As someone who is a die-hard Christmas fan and has seen the Rankin Bass classics countless times, the actors used so many references to their comedic advantage.
Specifically, Will’s portrayal of Hermey the bicuspid-obsessed elf who is a wannabe dentist, and Rich’s rendition of Yukon Cornelius [Rudolph], had me laughing. Not only do they deliver the lines from the show verbatim with some racy humor peppered in, their ability to mimic the original cartoon voice overs is so on point.
Through the quick rush of all of the myths and memories, there are some surprisingly touching moments. Heather’s delivery of Linus’ monologue from A Charlie Brown Christmas was a beautiful, heartfelt moment among the stop-and-go kitschiness and jollity, allowing the audience to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. And with a snap of your fingers, the moment passes and the crew moves onto the Gift of the Magi, where Heather morphs into a new-age character straight from the Jersey Shore.
Will, Heather, and Rich are gifted actors that have the ability to transition from scene to scene with speed and precision, keep the mood light, and the audience enthused. The creative overlap between storylines, especially the back-and-forth between A Christmas Carol and It’s A Wonderful Life lets their talent shine through. Their change in intonation, articulation and ability to play two roles simultaneously was only trumped by the fluidity of their overall performance. And Rich’s deadpan way of casually referring to Charles Dickens as ‘Chuck Dickens’ had me in stitches.
The show takes a warm, soft feeling of Christmas and pokes fun in an off-the-cuff, non-traditional manner. It’s like a chocolate chip cookie with potato chips inside — sweet, but unexpectedly salty, and ultimately a solid combination.
Put your sneakers on, and get ready for a high-speed run down memory lane filled with jaunty holiday innuendoes that will leave you laughing and craving peppermint hot chocolate.
Cast & Crew: Will Logan, Heather Legnosky, Richard O’Sullivan, Jordan Hue, Michael Mucciolo, Kelly Mucciolo, Joseph Castoro and Megan DelMonico
Smithtown Performing Arts Center, 2 East Main Street, Smithtown will present Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) through December 23. Recommended for ages 12 and up, tickets are $32 adults, $30 seniors, $28 students. To order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.