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Mrs. Claus comes into her own in new Christmas musical
Mrs. Claus steps out from behind her famous husband’s shadow and steals the show in a hilarious and original musical penned by two North Vancouver writers.
It was over eggnog last Christmas that Bill Allman and Alan Marriott, along with Kevin O’Brien from Vancouver, conceived the script for Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen.
“When you are writing something seasonal, it helps to be in that season,” says Marriott, speaking with The Outlook ahead of the show’s opening night yesterday (Dec. 11) at Presentation House Theatre.
Allman’s affinity for all things Christmas may have been the impetus behind this festive musical featuring a menagerie of elves.
“For example, he’s the only guy I know that owns a sleigh,” says Marriott of his friend Bill, who collects Christmas memorabilia.
The show aptly opens in Mrs. Claus’ kitchen at the North Pole where Santa’s sprightly spouse is bustling around making her famous Christmas cookies. Then prepare for an unexpected plot twist as Santa is caught red-handed with a commercial cookie wrapper.
Now, feeling unappreciated, Mrs. Claus figures the way to her husband’s heart is through his stomach. So she sets off for New York — in a sleigh, one can only assume — to the headquarters of Mega Bake cookies.
With 1960s New York as the backdrop, Mrs. Claus, clutching her secret cookie recipe, meets with Mega Bake executives. Figuring this will free her up to spend more time with Mr. Claus, she agrees to farm out her Christmas baking to Mega Bake, which will mass produce the cookies for worldwide distribution.
Will this move signal the shutdown of her fabled kitchen? Marriott says the audience can expect a heartwarming finale.
The show is steeped in nostalgia from a time when modern Christmas came of age in the 1950s and ’60s.
“What we really remember growing up in that time, when Christmas really got going, was all the lights and the sparkly Christmas cards,” recalls Marriott. “Our set reflects those Christmas cards that pop out and a primary green and red colour scheme.”
The upbeat, festive tunes that complement the Christmas storyline were composed by Marriott himself. He draws parallels to the munchkins dance during Ding Dong the Witch is Dead from the Wizard of Oz, when describing Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen opening number in which two mischievous elves make their debut.
The family-friendly show is directed and choreographed by legendary Canadian stage actor Jeff Hyslop, a real treat for Marriott.
“He was Mr. Musical in the ’80s and early ’90s,” says Marriott, of Hyslop, who played the lead in the Canadian production of The Phantom of the Opera. “It’s kind of exciting to have one’s musical recognized by someone of that caliber.”
Meanwhile, the title character of Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen is played by Vancouver TheatreSports League veteran Elizabeth Bowen. Marriott, a fellow improv actor, characterizes Bowen as a fantastic singer and a wonderful improviser who is full of feistiness, fun and sparkle.
“There’s so much sass. She gives it a whole spin,” says Marriott of Bowen’s performance as the portly Mrs. Claus.
Bowen even brings her own life experience as a nanny to the role.
“When she tells people off she gets this tone in her voice and you go, ‘That’s authentic,’” says Marriott.
Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen runs until Dec. 21 at Presentation House Theatre, 333 Chesterfield Ave. Tickets are available at the Presentation House box office or by calling 604-990-3474.