An on-the-go “travesty” will entertain audiences over the course of two fun-filled acts in Mulberry next month.
The Mulberry Community Theater Group will stage “A Dickens Christmas Carol: A Traveling Travesty in Two Tumultuous Acts, A Play within a Play,” at 8 p.m. Dec. 7; 7 p.m. Dec. 8; and again at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 9 at the Mulberry High School cafeteria, 203 W. Fifth St.
The show-within-a-show production will serve up one laugh-inducing moment after another, said Betty Rankin, a co-director for the play.
“It’s a group of people who decide to put on their version of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ and it’s really funny,” said Rankin, who will be joined by co-director Betty Feller for the performances. “It is a family friendly production, for sure. There’s nothing that would be in appropriate for families.”
Written by Mark Landon Smith and published in 1996, the story gives a setting in England, where an old, stuffy theater ensemble has launched their 15th annual farewell tour of the popular Dickens tale. This not-so-perfect troupe features Sir Selsdon Piddock (Leroy Kizer), who is the consummate actor tackling the role of Ebenezer Scrooge.
Not to be outdone, Bettina Salisbury (Wilma Kizer), Cordelia “Ffoilet-Ffolkes Ffortescue” Woods (Marla Walker), Elyot Crummels (Randy Jones), Teddy Shub (Traci Lewis) and Rowena Middleton-Lewis (Vonna Steele) embrace the duty of portraying multiple roles in the production. A good-natured general understudy named Cynthia Imbry (Angela Jones) is far from being prepared for the role she is eventually forced to play, which leads to more humor and drama, Rankin said.
“Each character takes on several people, and in order to do that, they have to change costumes very quickly,” she said. “They run off the stage and change into the costume of their next character, and then run back onto the stage, and they have to do that all time with the play.
“And the funny thing is, they do get mixed up,” Rankin added.
Bettina, ever the theater troupe’s resident diva, begins to fake an illness, hoping to help cause the cancellation of the production. Her wish is quickly slashed when the performances continue to take place, which causes Bettina to feel an emotional mixture of rage and shock, Rankin said.
It’s not too far into “A Dickens Christmas Carol: A Traveling Travesty … ” when most things that could go wrong do, she said.
“You have one lady who was replaced but decides she wants to come back to the production, and the other woman who thinks the part is now her part,” Rankin said. “Every chance they get, they pull the other off the stage.”
Betty Feller, who co-founded the group more than 25 years ago, said the comedy found within “A Traveling Travesty” will stay with audience members for many hours after each production.
“We had rehearsals last night, and the cast is really coming along well,” she said. “They’re getting the costumes together and things are coming together.”
There are about 25 actors and crew members in community threater group.
Comedy and drama
“Our group has been performing for a number of years now, and we typically have done comedies all the way,” Feller added. “We’ve done a few music productions and a little drama through the years, but we mainly do comedy.”
Traditionally, comedy is more difficult to stage than a drama, according to Feller.
“Comedy is more fun for us,” she said. “And this is all local talent; there are no professionals here. And our people are doing great.”
Like Rankin, Feller predicts the production will be a hit with area audience members.
“It’s been awesome — really awesome — to sit back and watch everyone do so well with this production,” Feller said.
Despite the show’s complex comedic timing and other factors, the cast members have provided “absolutely fantastic” results during rehearsals, Rankin said.
“Some of these players did this story in the old theater building in Mulberry 10 years ago, so now they are working on a much different stage in a different venue,” she said. “They’ve had to adjust but they are doing great. Most of them already know all of their lines.”
Tickets for the production are $7 at the door and can be purchased by calling (479) 430-0684 and at the door.