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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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