by Rachel Brown
Amana – November 18th seemed a bit early for me to entertain the idea of a Christmas show. Generally I am a “wait until after Thanksgiving to even think about Christmas music” sort of person, but Old Creamery’s A Don’t Hug me Christmas Carol was a fun and lighthearted introduction to the Christmas season.
A Don’t Hug Me Christmas Carol, begins Christmas eve in the bar owned by Clara and Gunner decked to the halls with Christmas decorations. It is a tacky, glittering, electrified and authentic scene. The Bunyan Bay bar’s only patron, Kanute (Jeff Haffner) – dressed in what reminds me of Red Green’s best elf suit – is helping himself to some beer and cheese ball. Clara (Marquetta Senters) is putting up Christmas decorations, much to the chagrin of Gunner (James Fleming) whose bumbling bah-humbugs are worsened only by running gags about his infertility.
Angry and off-put that his wife and Kanute keep singing along with the karaoke machine – songs that were written by him but stolen by his nemesis Sven Yorgenson – Gunner storms off, mounts his snowmobile and is off across the frozen lake. The next we see of him, Gunner is in a coma by a ill-placed ice hole and being plagued, Dicken’s style, by ghosts of past, present, and future in the form of Yorgenson. He spends the rest of the play confronting his hardships and insecurities through a series of delightfully cheesy and sometimes off color holiday-themed tunes. Fleming makes the audience laugh as he grumbles through his shock watching Yorgensen paint a less-than-happy portrait of his life, and croons to women of Bunyan including Gunner’s wife, Clara – seducing her with his charm. Marquetta Senters reminds me fondly of family members of my own as she plays Clara with her mix spitfire and kindness. She is a nice balance to Fleming’s character.
Jeff Haffner is a (Christmas) ham, and understandably so as he plays the laughable and not too bright Kanute, the Bunyan businessman who wants nothing more than to win back his once fiance Bernice (Amber Snyder). His jokes and singing are an enjoyable part of this show. He keeps the audience laughing as he bumbles after Bernice.
This show comes with a variety of music types – music provided by the ‘voice-activated’ Karaoke machine decorated with holiday flair at the center of the bar. Snyder excels, whether strutting her stuff in “I’d Rather be Naughty” or her strange but amusing Tiny Tim tap dance. Boettger also adds his own flair to the mix with the spirited Bunyan Beguine and his best “Voice of God.”
This cheesy – yet heart felt – Christmas Carol is high energy and high-jinx. If you are already familiar with the Bunyan Bay crew (or even if you aren’t), I have no doubts you will enjoy this back-woods Christmas tale. The show runs through December 18th at Old Creamery’s Main Stage. Tickets are $27 for adults and $17.50 for students and are available by calling 800-35amana or visiting http://www.oldcreamery.com