Tuesday, December 5, 2023

"A Very Electric Christmas" by nimbus theatre at The Crane Theater

nimbus theatre's first holiday* show last year, A Count Up to Christmas - a spoof of the Hallmark holiday movie, was such a success that they're doing another one this year. Last year, the show featured commercials for other "movies" in the network's line-up, and they took one of those and turned it into this year's show. While I didn't enjoy it as much as last year's show, it's still full of fun cliches, bad puns, and double entendres, with a festive design and entertaining performances. See A Very Electric Christmas at The Crane Theater in Northeast Minneapolis through December 17.

The story follows the holiday movie trope of a big city person sent to a small town. In this case it's TV news reporter Trae Bowers (Manny Woods), who has just landed a job in "Big City" after working in "Mid-Sized City." He's excited about his new job, but disappointed when the bigwigs find out he's from a small town called Snowflake Falls in "The Heartland," home of a big Christmas light festival, and send him home to report on it. Due to some family and other drama, he hasn't been home in some time, so his sister Connie (Christy Johnson) is thrilled to see him. He stays at Connie's hotel (which she doesn't decorate for the holidays since their dad died eight years ago), where an inspector from the electric company (Jane Hammill) is also staying. While visiting the local dam, run by Trae's old friend Dirk (Derek Dirlam), she begins to suspect there's something more than meets the eye going on, specifically as it relates to Frankie (Tara Lucchino), who's always suspiciously hanging around and talking about projections. It turns out they've discovered a new source for renewable energy, and the whole town bands together to save it.

Manny Woods and Jane Hammill (photo by Todd Craig)

Co-Artistic Director Liz Neerland directs the script by Josh Cragun, with lots of the elements that make up a holiday movie. Except for a romance. But there is a rekindled best friendship, which is a nice change but doesn't seem very Hallmark. The cast (which also includes Mitchell Frazier as the genial cook who may have a secret of his own, Jeffery Goodson as the cafe owner who has a hand in the dam business, and a hilarious as always Alex Stokes as Gladys Tidings, who won't let anyone forget she was Miss Tinsel 1969) gamely leans into all of the cheesiness, particularly in the commercials for other "movies" in the line-up - a highlight of the show. The performance I saw on opening weekend was a little rough, with some line hesitations, missed cues, and a dragging pace at times, but that will likely all tighten up throughout the run.

Tara Lucchino and Derek Dirlam (photo by Todd Craig
The effect of the design is that a Christmas movie exploded inside the Crane Theater, starting with all of the festive decorations in the lobby. The set includes three distinct and detailed areas - the cozy wood-trimmed hotel on one side, a classic small town diner on the other, and the dam office in the back (with the infamous leg lamp). The lighting includes many strings of Christmas lights hanging overhead, that change color when needed. The cast is dressed in small town casual chic, a highlight being Gladys' array of (hopefully faux) fur coats. (Scenic design by Gaea Dill-D'Ascoli, lighting design by Jon Kirchhofer, costume design by Rubble&Ash.)

Despite a few missteps, there's still a lot of fun to be had in A Very Electric Christmas.

*Read about all of the holiday shows I've seen this year here, and listen to the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers holiday preview episode of our podcast Twin Cities Theater Chat here