Saturday, December 1, 2012

Serendipity's Hilarious Holiday Show Will Ring Your "Christmas Belles"

“Christmas Belles” by Hope, Jones, and Wooten at Serendipity Playhouse is...


You simply MUST see it. I haven't laughed so much for I don't know how long. I laughed so hard I cried. And I wasn't the only one--the packed house roared with merriment as well.

“I’ve been wanting to do this play for a couple of years,” Tony Broom, artistic director, said. “It’s funny and it has some sweet moments. It’s a good show for this time of year.”

No, Tony, it's an EXCELLENT show for this time of year, sure to take the edge off holiday stress and touch the heart as well.

The Situation(s): 

It's Christmas-time in the small town of Fayro, Texas, and the Futrelle Sisters—Frankie, Twink and Honey Raye—are not exactly in a festive mood. A cranky Frankie is weeks overdue with her surprise twins. Her husband, Dub, is trying to make ends meet playing Santa while passing a kidney stone. Twink, recently jilted and bitter about it, is in jail for inadvertently burning down half the town while seeking revenge on her two-timing lover. And hot-flash-suffering Honey Raye is desperately trying to keep the Tabernacle of the Lamb's Christmas Program from spiraling into chaos. But things are not looking too promising.

Much of the cast of "Christmas Belles" at Serendipity Playhouse.

About the Play:

“Christmas Belles” is a contemporary theatrical comedy in two acts. The script is an absolute genius farce, and for this reason needs a great cast to pull it off.

"A farce is a comedy which aims at entertaining the audience by means of unlikely, extravagant, and improbable situations, disguise and mistaken identity, verbal humor of varying degrees of sophistication, which may include word play, and a fast-paced plot whose speed usually increases...[and] is also characterized by physical humor, the use of deliberate absurdity or nonsense, and broadly stylized performances." Source: Wikipedia

The characters are indeed broadly stylized and yet they are people you know or are in situations you can relate to. That's what makes this play so funny and warm. Trust me, you will relate to someone in this play.

About the Cast:

Adam Lau Kunze as Santa's helper.
Santa played by Brian Reed.
“Christmas Belles” features Cindy Swager, Joni Moore, Stephanie Carlson, Patrick Roth, Debra Hudkins, Brian Reed, Courtney Maxwell-Shey, Lyn Mullen, Adam Kunze, David Hudkins, and Rebecca Rowland Hines. All gave winning performances.

Joni Moore, as the on-the-edge, hot-flash-suffering, too-much-on-the-plate Honey Raye, gave a good performance. She gets to the point where you just know she's going to lose it, but manages to hold it all together (with a little help). Her facial expressions and physicality are great, but having seen her in a couple shows now and she seems to always play the same type of character.

Patrick Roth is a hoot as not only Sheriff John Curtis, but in an alter ego role as well. Debra Hudkins as Twink, his almost psycho prisoner and Stephanie Carlson as Gina Jo, the true-hearted daughter are both delightful. They play their roles with just the right quality, though neither really gets the limelight in this show.

But four performers top the tree: Brian Reed as Dub, Courtney Maxwell-Shey as Frankie, Adam Lau Kunze as Justin and David Hudkins as Raynerd.

Courtney Maxwell-Shey, left, as Frankie and Brian Reed
as her husband Dub.
Reed is a gas. (Now there's an old term.) Oh, he made me laugh. He is just so very good. I do not know how to explain it except to say, I have passed a kidney stone, I know how it feels. He embodies that and it's not funny, but it is. Great physicality and vocal delivery.

Maxwell-Shey also captured her "condition." As an emotional pregnant roller-coaster she rocks or, ah, rolls, whatever the case may be. While she has some physical comedy, movement is limited by her pregnancy appliance, so most of her comedy is played on her face or the way she delivers the lines.

Adam Lau Kunze
 Kunze is probably the best at everything. His physicality, his gestures, his facial expressions, his vocal intonations, his sense of comic timing, all combine to develop a perfect character and superb performance.

Kunze may very well be a rare acting genius. He intends to pursue an acting career in Hollywood, and I think he can do it.

David Hudkins
And David Hudkins as the the slow-witted Raynerd was wonderful. Tactfully and genuinely played, he could give Dustin "Rainman" Hoffman a run for his money. A very heartwarming, funny, but sensitive performance.

One final thought on the cast: Maybe a few too many "imports from over the river." Artist Director Tony Broom, has built a few friends over the years from that neck of the woods. We have talent in SW Washington, too.

About the Technical:

The show was masterfully directed and designed (except as noted below) by Alicia Marie Turvin. Jack Wells--as Turvin's right-hand-woman, managed the backstage, served as stage manager, properties mistress, costumer and soundboard operator--kept everything running smoothly.

Joni Moore, from left, as Honey Raye, Patrick Roth as
John Curtis and Debra Hudkins as Twink.
Serendipity Playhouse is a small theater with a small budget, but they do big things with what they have. An all new lighting rig (design revamp required by the city) was used well. The show's lighting design, by Turvin, was well executed and the actors well lit. Which is something considering the low trim height and that the instruments are all PAR 56's.

I liked how she often lit one scene on one side of the stage while the other side, unlit, was changed for the next scene. It kept the show moving, however, there were a couple of scenes that would have benefited from a house curtain, but they made it work.

The playhouse has never yet had a great set. (Which is possible in a small theater, I see it all the time). They build walls that contain the right number of entries, throw in the minimal dressings and that's about it. There isn't the attention to period or detail there could be.


The show is not only funny, it is touching and speaks truth. I believe it will warm your heart and make you glad your Christmas stress isn't like this.

From left: Rebecca Rowland, Stephanie Carlson, Joni Moore, Debra Hudkins,
Courtney Maxwell-Shey, Lyn Mullen, and Cindy Swager in "Christmas Belles."

The production run includes further performances at 8 p.m. on December 7, 8, 14, 15, 21 and 22, with Sunday matinee performances at 2 p.m. on December 2, 9, 16, and 23. Thursday, December 6 at 8 p.m. is a "Pay What You Will" performance. All performances take place at The Serendipity Playhouse, 500 Washington St., Vancouver, Wash.



Tickets are $15 general admission and may be purchased online at, or reservations can be made by calling 360-834-3588. Tickets may also be available at the door. Doors open 30 minutes before the performance.


Review by Gregory E. Zschomler
Photographs and videos by Ruth Zschomler.

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