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Friday, December 10, 2010

Theatre Horizon presents 'The Very Merry Xmas Carol'

For The Times Herald

Christmas stories.

They come in all shapes and sizes. From the solemn and majestic Boar’s Head Festival produced by St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Lafayette Hill each January to the ongoing slew of Nativity pageants staged by other area churches and the countless lay classics peopled by characters like Scrooge, the Grinch and Charlie Brown.

How to describe “The Very Merry Xmas Carol Holiday Adventure Show,” scheduled to start preview performances tonight and keep spirits bright at Norristown’s Centre Theatre – courtesy of Theatre Horizon – through Dec. 31?

The tellers of this family-friendly yarn – “appropriate for ages 10 to 110” – call it “an arctic adventure where three unlikely friends battle a mysterious and malevolent force that’s unraveling the tradition of Christmas.”

“The trio of snowman, red-nosed reindeer and man from London-town are the very last hope in stopping the whirling, howling villain known as Xmas from devouring all Christmas tales and, indeed, the very spirit of Christmas, itself,” they continue.

“The three heroes find themselves tossed into a dizzying world of mixed-up Christmas stories where each page in the storybook bleeds into the next. But how can such wildly different creatures ever hope to get along when a great dark void threatens to erase every Christmas story ever told?”

The funnymen who pose the question and their thespian pals from Theatre Horizon hint at a happy ending:

“While outsmarting this Xmas villain, expert actors marshal their theatrical superpowers to reveal a vision of the holiday – and of ourselves – that is both bizarre, illuminating and wickedly funny.”

“The Very Merry Xmas Carol Holiday Adventure Show is an original fantasy by Justin Jain, Dave Johnson, Tim Sawicki and Brad Wrenn, AKA The Berserker Residents.

The production’s cast, directed by Alex Torra, includes Jain, Johnson, Wrenn and Brian McCann.

Theatre Horizon Artistic Director Erin Reilly says the family-friendly comedy was “specifically created for Norristown audiences” and represents “six months (of) brainstorming plot twists, experimenting with costumes, improvising dialog and figuring out how to create dozens of characters with just four live actors.”

“We like to present never before seen shows for families to experience together at the holidays,” Reilly continues, noting the authors-performers have been “a sold-out hit of the Philly Fringe for the past three years.”

“The challenge of creating original comedic work is not new to Jain, Johnson, Sawicki and Wrenn. Having created Philly Fringe Festival favorites such as Annihilation Point (2009), The Berserkers have proven themselves as experts in creating something out of nothing.

“For the past six months…the Berserkers have been meeting almost weekly to unpack the humor and irony behind beloved Christmas stories, to play with classic Christmas themes and personalities and to knit together an adventure story for a holiday crowd.

“These actors were singing ‘Jingle Bells’ in July, exploring arctic settings in the sweltering heat. Now that December has arrived and Christmas is in the air, we look forward to entertaining families who want to celebrate the holiday together.”

For their part, the Berserkers look “to eschew time-honored conventions of theater, opting, instead, for a site-specific experience in which the audience is teleported – from the very moment they step through the door – into the fantastic world we’ve made for them.”

“Our work is original and created in a collaborative manner, embracing location, a sense of play and an inclusion of the audience within the story as it unfolds.”

Centre Theater is located in the Montgomery County Cultural Center, 208 DeKalb St., Norristown. More information is available at 610-283-2230 or

If You Go

“The Very Merry Xmas Carol Holiday Adventure Show” preview performances are scheduled for tonight and Saturday at 8; Sunday at 2 p.m. and Dec. 16 at 7 p.m.

The opening night, Dec. 17 is sold-out.

Additional performances are set for Dec. 18 at 8 p.m.; Dec. 19 at 2 p.m.; Dec. 22 at 7 p.m.; Dec. 23 at 7 p.m.; Dec. 24 at 2 p.m.; Dec. 26 at 2 and 7 p.m.; Dec. 27 (Industry Night) at 7 p.m.; Dec. 29 at 7p.m.; Dec. 30 at 7 p.m.; and Dec. 31 (New Year’s Eve) at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m.

A champagne toast will follow Dec. 31’s 6:30 p.m. performance; a “light fare reception,” the 9:30 p.m. performance. The latter will also feature “ringing in the New Year with…a live feed of the ball dropping in Times Square.”

The Dec. 16 7 p.m. show is part of a special event hosted by Greater Norristown Corporation. Tickets are $30 each or $50 per couple and include a pre-curtain food and cocktail hour, starting at 5:30 p.m.

A local Christmas choir will serenade audiences prior to each performance, and “treats from Bee’s Sweet Shoppe” will be offered during intermissions.

Preview tickets cost $22. Tickets for regular performances are $27 for adults, $24 for seniors and $21 for students and children.

Tickets can be purchased at 610-283-2230 or Box office hours are Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


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