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Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then Some!)freeFall Theatre
William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's review of Elf the Musical

Michael Ursua, Dexter Jones, and Sarah DelBeato
Photo by The Photo Ninja
Every theater company in the United States has the same problem at this time of the year: what to offer audiences that hasn't been done to death? St. Petersburg's freeFall Theatre introduces a mash-up of all the holiday tales, Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then Some!) by John K. Alverez, Michael Carleton and James FitzGerald. The concept of covering the entirety of a fairly extensive genre in one play began with The Reduced Shakespeare Company and their epic works The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), The Complete History of America (abridged), and The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged). Every Christmas Story Ever Told owes a great debt to them.

In the first act, pretty much all the commercial Christmas stories are folded into the stew, including the tales of Frosty (the Snowman) and the Grinch—but excluding a well-remembered reindeer, because of strict holds on the copyright, so Gustav the Green-Nosed Reingoat has to pinch hit. Tributes to Christmas customs around the world and other holiday symbols come at us at the speed of Santa's sled flying at warp speed. In this case, it is all a little too much. Some judicious thinning might have been in order, reducing the hour plus act to a more manageable 45 minutes or so.

Things settle down for a second act retelling of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, at least until Sara DelBeato remembers that they forgot It's a Wonderful Life. The various Victorian ghosts thus become important characters in post World War II America. It really is very funny, and far more in focus than the first act. As an encore, our three performers offer a five-minute medley of every Christmas song sung 'round the proverbial family spinet during the past five years, and then a few more. It is the perfect finale for this silly merriment.

All of this is performed by an engaging cast, freeFall favorite Sara DelBeato, Dexter James, and a hold over from the company's recent The Fantasticks, Michael Ursua. They mug, they overplay the sometimes silly jokes, and mostly they win the hearts of the audience.

Making his directorial debut, and also from The Fantasticks, is Patrick Ryan Sullivan. Mostly, he keeps things as under control as the script allows. The show is played broadly, and I don't think it could be otherwise. Michael Ursua doubles as musical director.

This production contains all the positives usually associated with a freeFall staging: colorful costumes by Artistic Director Eric Davis; effective sets by Davis and Tom Hansen, who also lights the show; and sound design by Stephen T. Kraak. The projections by Eric Davis are a highlight.

So, if your tastes run to sophomoric comedy, for which I have a limited tolerance, high thee to freeFall Theatre for Every Christmas Story Ever Told.

Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then Some!), through December 30, 2018, at freeFall Theatre, 6099 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg FL. For ticket and performance information, visit