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Review: “Christmas Belles” at Tyler Civic Theatre

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By John Baggett

“Christmas Belles” opened Friday, December 8, and runs through Sunday, December 17.

A lot of people think their families are crazy and there’s something about the holidays that makes them crazier. Luckily, Tyler Civic Theatre is here to put things into perspective and make you realize your family is a lot more normal than you think with their Christmas show, the madcap comedy, “Christmas Belles.”

Set in the small town of Fayro, Texas, “Christmas Belles” is the story of the Futrelle sisters – Frankie (Traci Smith), Honey Raye (Regina Money), and Twink (Sandy Junek), and the Christmas pageant at Tabernacle of the Lamb Church. Honey Raye has taken over the job of directing the show, which doesn’t sit well with Miss Geneva Musgrave (Danielle Rousseau), who had directed it for the last 27 years. Instead of doing the “boring old Nativity story,” Honey Raye has decided to put some pizzazz into the show, which she has dubbed “Bethlehemapalooza.” Unfortunately, she discovers very quickly that she may have bitten off more than she can chew.

Meanwhile, Frankie is cranky because she could be going into labor any moment with the surprise twins that she and her husband Dub (Jeremy G. Butler) have been blessed with. Dub, worried about how they are going to pay for the twins, has taken a job at the Super SmartMart as Santa, in a suit that hasn’t been washed since he took the gig. To make matters worse, he is on the verge of passing a kidney stone at any moment. His partner in crime is the Tabernacle’s associate pastor Justin Waverly (Servando Meacedo), who took the side job considering his pastoral job does not pay very well. Justin is also dating Dub’s daughter Gina Joe (Aryn Preddy), who has been tapped to play Mary in the play. He wants to try to propose to her, but she has been avoiding him as of late.

Then there is Twink, who is presently incarcerated for seeking revenge on her last boyfriend for getting cozy with another woman. She set his NASCAR memorabilia on fire…which spread and set part of the trailer park across the street ablaze. Luckily for her, officer John Curtis (Stewart Fillmore) has a soft spot for her and has worked his magic to allow her to spend Christmas Eve with her family at the pageant. She just has to behave so she doesn’t blow her chances for her possible parole in May.

With all the excitement of the show, including the cast being struck with food poisoning, a sheep trying to kill the Little Drummer Boy (and vice versa), and a woman with a secret, the stage is set for the most memorable Christmas program in Fayro’s history.

“Christmas Belles” was written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten, the trio that also penned “Farce of Nature.” The TCT production is directed by Danielle Rousseau, pulling double duty on stage and off. Rousseau assembled a great cast, delivering a show that will leave your face and sides hurting from laughter. It’s no easy feat to direct and act in the same show, but she pulls it off beautifully.

Smith, Money, and Junek are fantastic as the Futrelle sisters, each one earning giant laughs as the show gets crazier and crazier. Butler is also a delight to watch as our pain stricken Santa, giving a hilarious performance that also earns some sympathy pains. Fillmore, making his return to the stage after a seven-year absence, is hilarious as Curtis, no doubt putting his years as an FBI agent to use. Macedo, who made his TCT debut with this performance, also gets some big laughs and you just can’t help but root for his character. Preddy, returning to the stage after appearing in this summer’s “Rock of Ages,” is also a joy to watch, especially when she has to act badly on purpose.

Rounding out the cast are Heath Huffstetter as Raynerd Chisum, a special needs character that is both funny at times and absolutely heartwarming, Joclyn Ewers as Rhonda Lynn Lampley, a woman trying to bond with the Futrelle sisters for a reason only one of them knows, and Sherri Priest as Patsy Price, a gossipy member of the Tabernacle who absolutely steals the show when she has to read the story of Christmas in the pageant. Every single one of these performers was wonderful.

“Christmas Belles” is a delightful romp full of holiday cheer and the kind of all too relateable craziness that blurs the line between farce and slice of life. Sometimes, at the holidays, all you need is a good laugh, and with this show, Tyler Civic Theatre has the laugh you need.

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April 25th-28th: “Hamlet” on Stage at TJC

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‘Hamlet’ to be Theatre TJC’s final production of the season

Theatre TJC will close its 2017-18 season with William Shakespeare’s searing story of murder and revenge, “Hamlet.”

Show times are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, April 25-28, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, April 28, in Jean Browne Theatre.

Tickets go on sale Wednesday, April 18. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, and free with a valid TJC ID. Box office hours are noon-6 p.m. weekdays through the run on the show. For reservations, call 903-510-2212.

The production is under the direction of Denise Weatherly-Green.

Long considered one of The Bard’s best plays, “Hamlet” is the tale of a Danish prince tormented by despair, insanity and a drive for vengeance. The play has been inspiring the minds and exhausting the hearts of theater-goers and readers alike for centuries.

Cast includes: Hamlet – Sean-Riley Cunningham, Tyler; King Claudius – Bryce Neel, Troup; Queen Gertrude – Nicki Dempsey, Tyler; Old Hamlet’s Ghost – Stone French, Whitehouse; Polonius – J.W. McFarland, Bullard; Ophelia – Bailey Patton, Mansfield; Laertes – Gerardo Carreon, Matamoros, Mexico; Horatio – Walker Delk, Tyler; Rosencrantz – Bryson Chalk, Big Sandy; Guildenstern – Iliana Herrera, Tyler; Marcellus – Mar’Quise Johnson, Oceanside, California; Barnardo – Colin Thomas, Frisco; Francisco – William Clark, Whitehouse; First Player – King, Levi Hawkins, Hughes Springs; Second Player – Queen, Savannah Williams, Tyler; Third Player – Trey Frosch, Kaufman; Clown 1 – Joey Herrera, Katy; and Clown 2 – Rita Roman, Quitman.

Crew includes: stage manager – Tate Bivens, Paris; assistant stage manager – Grace Luttrell, New Diana; director’s assistant – Ellie Hudson, Tyler; and sound design – Katlyn Lamar – Canton.

The production is part of TJC’s fourth annual Arts Festival, a month-long celebration of exhibits and performances by TJC students, faculty and staff. For a complete list of events, go to www.tjc.edu/ArtsFestival.

 

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At Cowan Center: “The Wizard of Oz” April 21st

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The Cowan Center is located at 3900 University Blvd. on the UT Tyler campus. Tickets are available at the box office, by calling (903)566-7424, or go to cowancenter.org. Upcoming productions are:

April 21st (7:30pm) – “The Wizard of Oz” will be presented at the Cowan Center. There truly is no place like home! The entire family will be captivated as they travel down the Yellow Brick Road and beyond with Dorothy, Toto, and their friends the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow in this lavish production, featuring breathtaking special effects, dazzling choreography, and classic songs. Tickets are $37-$72.

April 28th (7:30pm) – Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 will be presented at the Cowan Center. The East Texas Symphony will close their season with Beethoven’s monumental Symphony No. 9.  The Orchestra will be joined by ETSO Chorus, UT Tyler Concert Chorale, and Patriot Singers, and a quartet of soloists.  The concert also features the ETSO premieres of Handel’s Zadok the Priest and Brahms’ Nanie.  It’s a grand evening of choral music ending the season on a high note.

May 10th (7:30pm) – The Celtic Women will be presented at the Cowan Center. This global phenomenon started on a winter Dublin night in 2004. The idea was conceived to create a musical ensemble featuring a selection of exceptional classically and traditionally trained Irish female musicians. Tickets are $42-$77.

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Theatre Guide: “Love, Loss & What I Wore” on Stage at Lindale Theatre

 

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Upcoming Events, Concerts & Plays

April 20th-22nd (Nightly at 7:30pm, Sunday Matinee 2pm) – “Love, Loss & What I Wore” –  This is a play of monologues and ensemble pieces about women, clothes, and memory covering all the important subjects: mothers, prom dresses, mothers, buying bras, mothers, hating purses, and why we only wear black. Based on the bestselling book by Ilene Beckerman. Lindale Community Theatre is located at 109 W. Hubbard St., Lindale, lindalecommunitytheater.org.

April 21st (7:30pm) – “The Wizard of Oz” will be presented at the Cowan Center. There truly is no place like home as the greatest family musical of all time, “The Wizard of Oz” twists its way into the Cowan Center! The entire family will be captivated as they travel down the Yellow Brick Road and beyond with Dorothy, Toto, and their friends the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow in this lavish production, featuring breathtaking special effects, dazzling choreography, and classic songs. Sales begin March 26th. Tickets are $37-$72. The Cowan Center is located at 3900 University Blvd. on the UT Tyler campus. Tickets are available at the box office, by calling (903)566-7424, or go to cowancenter.org.

April 21st (7:30pm) – “All That Jazz!” featuring Ning An on piano will be presented by the Longview Symphony Orchestra at The Belcher Performance Center. Belcher Performance Center at LeTourneau University is located at 2100 S. Mobberly, Longview. For more info call (903)233-3080 or go to belchercenter.com.

April 23rd (6:30pm) – “Dinosaur Zoo” will be presented at The Belcher Performance Center. Erth’s “Dinosaur Zoo Live” guides you on a breathtaking tour through prehistoric Australia. You’ll observe, meet and interact with an eye-popping collection of amazingly life-like dinosaurs and other creatures presented in a theatrical performance that will thrill and entertain kids while stimulating their imaginations in ways that will forever connect them to their world. Brought to life by a team of skilled performers and puppeteers, and designed with the help of professional paleontologists, Erth’s DINOSAUR ZOO LIVE’s puppets are so extraordinarily realistic you may feel the urge to run and hide – but don’t! While this fun, unique, entertaining, and educational live show created by Erth Visual & Physical of Sydney, Australia may have been 65 million years in the making, you’ll agree, it’s well worth the wait! Belcher Performance Center at LeTourneau University is located at 2100 S. Mobberly, Longview. For more info call (903)233-3080 or go to belchercenter.com.

April 28th (7:30pm) – East Texas Symphony Orchestra presents Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Choral, which includes the powerful “Ode to Joy” in the last movement. The orchestra will be joined by four soloists, the ETSO Chorus, and the combined UT Tyler Chorus and Patriot Singers. Cameron Rose, director of choirs at The University of Texas at Tyler, will direct the choruses. For more info or tickets go to etso.org or call (903)526-3876. Concerts are performed at the UT Tyler R. Don Cowan Fine and Performing Arts Center. Concerts begin at 7:30pm.

May 4th-6th, 10th-13th (Nightly at 7:30pm, Sunday at 2:30 for a Mother’s Day Brunch) – “The Odd Couple” – This classic comedy opens as a group of the guys assemble for cards in the apartment of divorced Oscar Madison. And if the mess is any indication, it’s no wonder that his wife left him. Late to arrive is Felix Unger, who has just been separated from his wife. Fastidious, depressed, and none too tense, Felix seems suicidal, but as the action unfolds, Oscar becomes the one with murder on his mind when the clean freak and the slob ultimately decide to room together with hilarious results as “The Odd Couple” is born. The May 13th, Mother’s Day show offers an optional brunch. Tyler Civic Theatre is located at 400 Rose Park Dr., Tyler, next to the Tyler Rose Garden Center. For more info call (903)592-0561 or go to tylercivictheatre.com.

May 4th-6th, 11th-13th (Nightly at 7:30pm, Sunday at 2:30) – “The Miracle Worker” will be on stage at Henderson Civic Theater. “The Miracle Worker” is a three-act play by William Gibson adapted from his 1957 Playhouse 90 teleplay of the same name. It is based on Helen Keller’s autobiography, “The Story of My Life.” Henderson Civic Theater is located at 122 E. Main, Henderson. For more info call (903)657-2968 or go to hendersoncivictheatre.org.

May 10th (7:30pm) – The Celtic Women will be presented at the Cowan Center. They’ve sold more than ten million albums and three million tickets. Now, the global phenomenon known as Celtic Woman is set to embark on another world tour, which will include a stop in Tyler. It all started on a winter Dublin night in 2004. The idea was conceived to create a musical ensemble featuring a selection of exceptional classically and traditionally trained Irish female musicians. Sales begin April 9th. Tickets are $42-$77. The Cowan Center is located at 3900 University Blvd. on the UT Tyler campus. Tickets are available at the box office, by calling (903)566-7424, or go to cowancenter.org.

May 19th (6pm) – “50th Anniversary Gala” will be presented by Tyler Civic Chorale. For more info go to tylercivicchorale.org or facebook.com/tylercivicchorale. Tickets are available through TCC members and at the door.

July 4th (4pm) – “Annual Independence Day Concert” will be presented by Tyler Civic Chorale at First Presbyterian Church, 230 W. Rusk St., Tyler. For more info go to tylercivicchorale.org or facebook.com/tylercivicchorale. Tickets are available through TCC members and at the door.

July 13th-15th, 20th-22nd (Nightly at 7:30pm, Sunday at 2:30) – “Charlotte’s Web” will be on stage at Henderson Civic Theater. All the enchanting characters from the book are here: Wilbur, the irresistible young pig who desperately wants to avoid the butcher; Fern, a girl who understands what animals say to each other; Templeton, the gluttonous rat who can occasionally be talked into a good deed; the Zuckerman family; the Arables; and, most of all, the extraordinary spider, Charlotte, who proves to be “a true friend and a good writer.” Henderson Civic Theater is located at 122 E. Main, Henderson. For more info call (903)657-2968 or go to hendersoncivictheatre.org.

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