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OYP's Christmas offering true to the spirit of the season
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Hayden Smith plays the Dr. Seuss character everyone loves to hate in the OYP production of 'The Mrs. and The Elves Tell Stories!'. Fred Sherwin/Photo

The holiday theatre season got off to an entertaining start this past weekend with the Orleans Young Players production of “The Mrs. and The Elves Tell Stories!” at the Shenkman Arts Centre.

The play, which incorporates five different Christmas stories including “The Wind in the Willows”, “A Christmas Memory” and “Twas the Night Before Christmas”, stays true to the theatre school’s 2010-2011 theme of legends, stories and fables.

The production opens with Mrs. Claus, played by Biz MacDonald, preparing to read a story to the hardworking Elves. The first story she picks is the Dr. Seuss classic “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”.

The main character is played by Hayden Smith, who somehow managed to take a break from rehearsing for Vintage Stock Theatre’s upcoming production of “A Dickens of a Christmas”, to play the lead role.

The production was a true ensemble with different members of the cast taking turns to read the dialogue.

The story is an adaptation of the children’s classic “The Wind and the Willows” by Kenneth Graeme.

For the sake of brevity, OYP artistic director takes two of the main characters, Ratty and Mole, and has them search for Ratty’s home through the snows of December.

When Mole catches a scent of his own home, he continues to follow Ratty rather than ask his friend to turn back. Further down the path Ratty realizes that something is bothering Mole and they end up turning around and going back.

When the two friends find Mole’s old home they settle in and find bits of food to celebrate the holiday season. As they begin to enjoy their “feast”, a group of young field mice arrive unexpectedly. Rather than shoe them away, Ratty and Mole ask the field mice to join them.

The story of camaraderie, generosity and empathy is a wonderful message for the holiday season especially in this age of mega-commercialism.

The part of Ratty was played by Ian Stauffer, while Mole was played by Randy Bellini, both of whom were amazing.

The third story was a whimsical retelling of “The Ninth Reindeer” aka Olive the Other Reindeer, in which Vintage Stock Theatre president and veteran actor and director Marni Hunt-Stephens plays the grandmother and OYP parent Gordo Smith plays the father in his first ever speaking role. Rudolph and Olive were played by OYP veterans Petra Hohenstein and Samantha Lipovski respectively.

After a brief intermission, the play resumed with the telling of “Christmas Kites”, taking from the book “A Christmas Memory” by Truman Capote.

Langston’s adaptation of Capote’s short story tears at the audience’s heart strings. The story is about two cousins, one much older than the other, who grow up together in the same house.

The pair are very close and every year at Christmas they make fruitcakes and decorations together. During their last Christmas together they give each other kites for gifts and go fly them in a hidden field. The older cousin describes the kites as what God and Heaven must be like.

The younger cousin, whose name is Buddy, goes off to school the next year, and although they continue to write each other letters, the elderly cousin slowly slips into dementia and forgets who Buddy is before eventually passing away.

Buddy describes his cousin’s death as severing the string of a kite and he finds himself searching the sky for a lost pair of kites hurrying towards Heaven.

Tyler Smith was marvelous as Buddy, as was Colette Budge who played his older cousin. The rest of the cast included David Loveridge who played Buddy as the adult narrator, and Lennis Poupore who played Mr. Haha.

After the melancholic “Christmas Kites”, “Twas the Night Before Christmas” was a welcome holiday tonic with the Elves playing all the main roles.

The production wrapped up with a rousing rendition of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”.

The cast of Elves included Sam MacDonald, Hannah Beatty, Hannah Decker, Elyse Gauthier, Sopia Hullin, Hailey Sterling, Olivia Lebouthillier, Melissa Baird, Allison Perry, Petra Hohenstein, Alexus White, Sydney Smith, Smantha Lipovski, Vanessa Pauze, Sam Loveridge, Grace Loveridge, Shae-Lynne Biersdorfer, Holly Norman, Madison Bellini and Hannah and Julia Duhme.

Supplying the sound effects and musical accompaniment was music man Russell Levia.

Next up on the holiday theatre calendar is Vintage Stock Theatre’s production of “A Dickens of a Christmas” which opens this Thursday night at the Shenkman Arts Centre.

The play stars veteran Ottawa actor Paul Rainville and such local notables as Sam Stephens and Hayden Smith.

Curtain time on Dec. 9, 10 and 11 is 7:30 p.m. Two special matinee performances will be held on Dec. 10 and 11 at 1:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. A special family rate (two adults and two children) is available for $50. For reservations visit www.vintagestock.on.ca.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

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