Area Community Theatre could have presented A Good Old Fashioned Redneck Country Christmas.
But when directors Steve Jones and Barb Sullivan learned there was a musical version of the play, there was little doubt which one they were going to produce.
“We thought it would be so much more fun if it were a musical,” Sullivan said.
As a result, ACT will present A Good Old Fashioned Redneck Country Christmas, the Musical, starting Dec. 5 with a dinner show performance in downtown Tomah.
Sullivan is handling the musical side of the production and is pleased with how it has come together. The music is relatively simple with pianist Lynda Clay-Palmer handling the entire accompaniment. Sullivan said the challenge is coordinating the actors with the music.
“You need more than just people just standing there and singing; you have to have movement and choreography and people who can sing or be trained to sing,” she said. “Working with this group has been really wonderful. They have naturally good voices. It’s just a matter of training them to sing together.”
The play, written in 2008 by Kris Bauske and adapted for the stage as a musical by Samuel French, takes place in a small rural town called Christmas. The plot centers around three men who took off hunting on Christmas Eve and the women (two wives and one girlfriend) they left behind at Lou’s Diner. The men are frustrated with wives/girfriends, especially one who doesn’t get along with his mother-in-law.
The scenes shift back and forth between the hunting lodge and diner, and the plot is complicated by an approaching blizzard and a mysterious − and pregnant − 17-year-old who finds her way into at the diner.
Sullivan said both the male and female characters get to express themselves through the musical numbers.
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“We have guys singing about the ladies, and the ladies singing about the guys,” Sullivan said. “All the misunderstandings are there.”
Elijah Klema, who plays a young medical student who notices the pregnant girl outside and invites her inside the diner, likes the wide variety of musical numbers.
“I like the range of songs − funny songs and serious songs,” Klema said.
Ashley La Beause plays Darlene, one of the three women left behind. She said there are lots of funny elements in the musical − both at the lodge and at the diner.
“The play has a lot of Moe and Curly going on with both sides,” Le Beause said.
Roger Ellis plays Dave Fox, one of the three men at the lodge. He said the play will resonate with a small-town audience. He described the town of Christmas as “a very welcoming small town, and it welcomes everyone into the community. Everyone knows everybody.”
Steve Jones, who co-directs the play with Sullivan, said the script doesn’t shy away from the religious foundation of Christmas. He said that’s an appealing part of the production.
“I wanted something that portrayed the true meaning of Christmas with Jesus, the birth and the manger,” Jones said. “I have a relationship with Christ myself, and I try to do what he wants me to do.”
Sullivan said the time was right for a Christmas musical in Tomah. The One Acchord Performance Company is taking a year off from its annual Christmas production, and Sullivan said ACT decided to move its annual Christmas play from mid-November to early December.
Jones said non-religious people can also appreciate the musical.
“Everybody who celebrates Christmas knows there is a Christ, but Christmas is a time for family, a time for getting together and fellowship,” he said. “Christmas is a free gift to us, and all we have to do is accept it.”
Tomah Journal editor Steve Rundio can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.