Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
By Jones Hope Wooten
Directed by Vicky Wicks
Breakthrough Theater
Winter Park, FL

What is it about the south that demands everyone have three first names? Down in little Fayro, Texas, holiday traditions hang by the balance. Hot flashing Honey Raye Futrelle (Michelle Burkett) takes on the Christmas pageant at the “Tabernacle of the Lamb.” She’s new to this; Miss Geneva (Carol Jaqueline Palumbo) ran it for the last 27 years, and built up some production competence. Disasters pile on disasters: the special guest got a better gig, Santa (Gary Norris) passes a kidney stone, and most of the cast caught the explosive diarrhea bug and we are down to a single wise man and a plastic baby Jesus. On a positive note, Twink Futrelle (Jessica Dodds) is out on work release and in love with her jailer John Curtis (Charlie Halterman). Can the machine of God save this quaint disaster, or will the audience flee to the Methodist church down the dirt road?

Of course, the pageant is saved; what sort of holiday special tanks the Nativity scene? And like all good Breakthrough shows, it’s a huge cast and steady stream of chaos as the story unwinds. While Ms. Dodds seemed unusually calm for a jail bird, her sisters made up for it. Ms. Burkett built her anger to a fine pitch, and Ms. Palumbo gets high marks for cattiness. Mr. Norris seemed to have experience with major pain, and Mr. Halterman did a pretty decent small-town talent contest Elvis impersonation. Gabe Figueroa plays the little boy with a wagon, but he seemed just a little too close to drinking age to pass off the role convincingly. But it’s the holiday special, so I’ll cut some slack. I see parallels with “A Tuna Christmas ” in this show, but it uses a larger cast making it more suitable for community theaters. There’s a minimum of sap in this tree, and it has just enough Christmas sparkle to check your seasonal theater box without making you sit through another ghostly redemption product.

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