Encore Michigan

‘Every Christmas Story’ delivers yule yucks at Tipping Point

Review November 19, 2019 Patrice Nolan

NORTHVILLE, Mich. – Tipping Point Theatre embraces the many memes of Christmas with its hilarious, fast-paced send-up of all the stories we tend to revisit at this nostalgia-charged time of year. Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!), by Michael Carleton with original music by Will Knapp, was a Tipping Point favorite ten Christmases past, and the company is gifting its patrons with this exuberant new production directed by Sonja Marquis.

The cast is a director’s dream team; Patrick Loos, Vanessa Sawson, and Hope Shangle immediately take the audience hostage by invoking the memories, pet peeves, and cloying TV holiday scenes that hibernate in a vast, otherwise unused portion of our hippocampus.  Indeed, a number of show nights are already sold out, so act quickly if you plan to see it.

Every Christmas Story Ever Told opens with the ominous words from the Western world’s most celebrated Christmas story: “Marley was dead to begin with.” Patrick Loos is intent on presenting Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, but Vanessa Sawson and Hope Shangle are having none of it. They need something more, something that speaks to their own Christmas experience. Ambitiously, they decide to present a banquet (make that an all-you-can-eat buffet) of holiday fare pulled from a variety of cultural traditions, works of literature, and music/TV/film media.

To make sure that the audience is engaged and stays that way, much of the show is interactive. Patrons walking into the theatre are invited to submit their own favorite holiday song or scene. These are used in a segment in which the audience has to guess which classic holiday tableau the cast is representing. These range from the songs “I Have a Little Dreidel” and “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” to the New Year’s Eve film classic “Die Hard.” The opening night audience correctly identified each tableau presented in the frantic 3-minute time limit.

The show touches all the right holiday buttons. We get a glimpse of the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade, which officially kicks off the season with a visit from Santa Clause. The cast reenacts the strange saga of an elf who wants to be a dentist and a misfit reindeer who together teach us that bigotry is alive and well at the North Pole. We watch the Grinch fib to Cindy Lou Who, who is not more than two. There’s Santa riding his Norelco razor and a death-defying snowman with a magical hat. Yes, this comedy is directed point blank at an adult audience that can appreciate the irony and enjoy the pop-cultural pablum we were fed as kids. But, lest we think it’s all tongue-in-cheek, we are also treated to a shining, sincere moment in in the show — Linus explaining the meaning of Christmas to Charlie Brown. That leads to the carol, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing…” and the audience had no trouble joining in.

That’s all in the first act. Sawson and Shangle have earned Loos’ compliance with their rogue holiday show by promising to get back to A Christmas Carol, and Act 2 starts with the same words that opened Act 1. But when Marley’s ghost is due to appear, it’s as Clarence, the angel from It’s a Wonderful Life. The show becomes a delightful mash-up of these two stories and somehow manages to convey the transformative power of Christmas

The production team supporting Sonja Marquis includes Jared P. Cole, Set Designer and Technical Director; Rachael Nardecchia, Lighting Designer; Angie Kane, Sound Designer; Lisa Borton, Costume Designer; Tracy L. Spada, Stage Manager; and Marisa Soto, Properties Designer.

Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) is not intended for young audiences, especially those working to stay on Santa’s Good List. We cannot say where Loos, Sawson and Shangle get the energy to pull this off, because it’s a physically demanding show with non-stop costume changing, interludes of singing and dancing, and unrelenting good cheer. They are determined to make sure everyone leaves in the proper holiday spirit, and only an unrepentant Grinch or Scrooge could resist. God bless us, every one.

Click here for show days, times and details.

Read more about Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) 11/14–12/22

Read more about Tipping Point Theatre

Week of 12/9/2019

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