|location scout Stefan (Neal Skoy) with Colin and Tess
(Damian and Anna Leverett) and Martha and Neil
(Elise Langer and Ryan Nelson, photo by Justin Cox)
Co-founder Jason Peterson directs the mostly new-to-Christmas-Lake ensemble, and really allows each of them to showcase their particular comedy skills, but still manages to keep the show (barely) on track. Real life married couple Anna and Damian Leverett play Tess and Colin, and are quite believable and sweet as the "normal" couple. Elise Langer takes on the role of Martha with all of her delightful quirks (hot dish! pet lizard! massage skills!). As they're rehearsing for the pageant, she goes into this long pantomime of cooking in the kitchen and it's brilliant and hilarious, sort of a break from the plot but such a delight to watch. The one exception to the new cast is Ryan Nelson,*** who has always played Neil at Yellow Tree, and always should. I can't imagine anyone else in the role. He has Neil's facial expressions, his bad impressions, his obsession with Little House on the Prairie, and his sweet love for Martha down pat. Martha and Neil are comedy gold, and Elise and Ryan play them beautifully. Speaking of comedy gold, Jason Ballweber (of Four Humors) is hilarious as Gunther, who is prone to flatulence and other awkward behavior. He also has a couple memorable turns as a pastor and Hollywood producer, for good measure. Rounding out the cast is Neal Skoy as the location scout Stefan Stefanovic, who is more than he seems to be, speaking with an at times incomprehensible over-exaggerated vaguely Eastern European accent. Everything about this show is over the top in the best way.
|the pageant! (Damian Leverett, Ryan Nelson,
Elise Langer, and Neal Skoy, photo by Justin Cox)
Yellow Tree's original holiday comedy tradition this year allows the talented new cast to really shine, while still being that sweet and goofy Minnesota story that regulars like me have come to love. It's a funny irreverent holiday show, not overly sweet, but still ends in a heart-warming moment with the cast singing a Blake Thomas*** original "A Little Bit of Lovin' and a Christmas Tree."
The hugely popular show continues through December 29, with as many as nine shows a week, many of which are sold out already. Best availability is on or after the 26th.
*Click here to read about all of the holiday shows I've seen this year.
**Don't worry if you haven't seen the original, it's not necessary to understand and enjoy this show. But if you're curious, Actors Theater of Minnesota is doing a production of the original Miracle on Christmas Lake at Camp Bar in December. Click here for more info.
***To hear more of Ryan Nelson's vocal talents and Blake Thomas' original songs, listen to Take It With You, live radio theater from Duluth! Available for free here, or wherever you find podcasts.