Volume 12 Week 5

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Vintage Stock's holiday production a very edificational (sort of) Christmas play
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

The Vintage Stock Theatre production of 'A Very Special Christmas' featured a number of vetrean local actors including John Cook, left, and Sam Leclair. Fred Sherwin Photo

Leave it to local playwrite Susan Flemming to pen a holiday play that lifts the Christmas spirit while not exactly being about Christmas.

"A Very Little Christmas Play" is the Vintgae Stock Theatre company's latest holiday offering which recently wrapped up production at the Shenkman Arts Centre.

The play featured two of my favourite local actors, Sam Leclair and John Cook, who are both accomplished playwrite's in their own right, and was produced by another local theatre veteran, Sarah Benfield, while Nicolas Alain directed.

Leclair plays Ruby Pritchard, the local librarian in the small rural town of Pritchard's Corners, who looks forward every hiliday for the arrival of Mrs. Trumaine's Travelling Theatrical Ensemble, while Cook plays Gerald Hammer, a Boer War veteran and recent arrival to the town who gets somewhat unwillingly swept up in the town's theatrical exuberance.

But while Leclair and Cook feature prominently in the play, the real stars are Marni Hunt Stephens and Ellen Manchee who play competing mavens Argentina Pritchard and Cordelia Beecham.

Pritchard is the town matriach, who believes that the theatre is important in the "edification" of the population. It is also an important fundraiser for the beautification of the community which bears her name. Proceeds from the production will be used to build a welcome arbor on the town's main street.

A big believer in planning ahead of time, Pritchard organizes a town meeting months ahead of the theatical ensemble's arrival for the sole purpose of assigning tasks to the town's residents.

When she learns that Mrs. Trumaine's Travelling Theatrical Ensemble has gone bankrupt and therefore won't be coming, she decides to forge ahead with her own production instead.

Her plans are interrupted, however, with the arrival of Beecham and her husband/manager Walter Mason, played by Ian McGregor. Beecham is an aging ingenue who is trying to stay one step ahead of the talking pictures and her creditors.

Under the guise of wanting to make up for Mrs. Trumaine's Theatrical Ensemble's sudden demise, Beecham "offers" to help produce Pritchard's "Very Little Christmas Play" much to the chagrin of Mrs. Pritchard.

Despite Pritchard's objections, Beecham soon takes over the production. She rewrites Pritchard's script, adding a starring role for herself while making Hammer her leading man.

The townsfolk are all smitten by the star in their midst, except for Argentina of course. Unfortunately they are completely unaware that Beecham and Mason plan to take off with the play's receipts while the rest of the town celebrate their success.

The two villains begin to have a change of heart when the actors present Beecham with a blanket which they all took turns in making. Having already taking the money box, Mason tries to return it but is found out by Pritchard's daughter Ruby who thanks him for "finding" it.

Cordelia Beecham is presented with a blanket from the townsfolk of Pritchard's Corners from a scene in Vintage Stock Theatre's production of 'A Very Special Christmas Play'. Fred Sherwin Photo

The scene switches to the community hall. The play has ended and Mason is passing through the empty room when his eyes catch the money box sitting on the desk. Unable to help himself he quickly snatches it and runs off to join his wife and co-conspirator on the waiting train.

Unbeknownst to them, however, Ruby had already taken the money out of the box and stuffed in her stocking. She and Hammer are not only basking in their theatrical success having received four curtain calls, but they also have enough money to build a dozen welcome arbors "covered in gold".

I loved everything about the play and the underlying message that nothing can spoil the true spirit of Christmas was not lost on me. In fact. I went out and bought a Christmas tree the next morning.

Besides the actors mentioned, the play also featured Marseille Lachance as Rena Baxter, who makes a delicious cranberry bake, or so we're told; Meredith Wood as her daughter Frieda Baxter; Jamie Westmore as Pearl Pritchard Latham; Eric Lafrance as Pearl's husband Myles Latham; Sarah Allen as their daughter Opal Latham; and David Elliott as their son and harmonica playing snowflake.

"A Very Little Christmas Play" is yet another entertaining production in a long list of entertaining productions by Vintage Stock Theatre. My only criticism is that I never got to see the actual play. Oh well, perhaps they can put on Mrs. Prtichard's very little production next year. Hint. Hint.

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



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