There’s too much holiday cheer at the Lake City Playhouse for just one Christmas story this season.
Coeur d’Alene’s nonprofit theater company will stage “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)” beginning Friday and continuing through Dec. 17. The three-person comedy replaces “A Doll’s House” on the Playhouse’s season schedule.
The play is a meta-journey through the holidays – focusing on three actors who are about the stage the umpteenth production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” When two of the three actors convince the other to try something new, the actors stitch together a production drawn from world traditions, pop culture, music and riffs on famous stories.
“They want to do a contemporary story and not just the old classics,” said Daniel J. Bell, one of three actors playing the actor-characters in the Playhouse production. “We start out slow, doing the Grinch, then Rudolph, and it just starts to go faster and faster. We jump from character to character, pulling audience members on the stage.”
Bell is a board member for the Playhouse and has worked and performed with several recent productions. When the Playhouse was unable to fill the cast for its production of “A Doll’s House,” Bell took it upon himself to find a small, holiday-themed show to replace it.
“I was definitely hoping to find something that was not a one-man show,” he said.
Luckily, he came across “Every Christmas Story Ever Told,” as well as two actors willing to join him on the production. Bell is joined by Todd Jasmin, a former technical director with the Playhouse, and Nicole Delbridge, who appeared in Playhouse productions of “Carousel” and “Sister Act” earlier this year.
All three performers are high school teachers by day. Bell is a physics and physical science teacher at Lake City High School. Jasmin teaches English at Lake City, and Delbridge teaches music in Wallace.
While Bell always loved theater, he never thought it to be a realistic career choice. Teaching, on the other hand, proved to be a calling.
“I went to (the University of Idaho) to be a mechanical engineer, and I just didn’t feel right about it … switched to theater and computer science, and I just felt like I was supposed to be doing something else,” Bell said. “So I thought maybe I should look at education, and I felt something deep in my heart.”
Bell, Delbridge and Jasmin are directing themselves in the show. Even as they took the reins, Bell was prepared to keep the show a shoestring affair.
“I was thinking I would have no lights, no sound, but we’ve had some wonderful people assisting us, and with props and creating costume pieces,” Bell said. “Just to have everyone rally around us has been very encouraging.”
“Every Christmas Show Ever Told” is a family-friendly show, although Bell warns little kids will be befuddled by many of the production’s holiday callbacks.
“There’s going to be a lot of references,” he said. “People will remember the Norelco Santa commercials, and for those who don’t, hopefully it will be an opportunity to look up these stories. It’s definitely very nostalgic.”
The production allows the trio to try all sorts of characters and voices – like, say, the Charlie in the Box from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and Jimmy Stewart, of course.
“Luckily it’s not me,” Bell said of the “It’s a Wonderful Life” icon. “It’s Nicole. His is tough to do.”
Bell hopes audiences have fun trying to keep up with the references.
“It’s a fantastic way to look at these Christmas stories,” he said. “Their brains are going to be searching – they’re doing ‘Rudolph’ right now, they’re doing ‘Gift of the Magi’ right now, but that’s a plug into a different Christmas story.”