Norm Foster is one of Canada’s greatest playwrights, and one whose plays the Revelstoke Theatre Company has played before, so when it came time to choose a Christmas play, the choice wasn’t too hard.
“I thought it was time we did something special for Christmas. I thought it was time we did something with kids again because it’s been a while,” director Lyn Kaulback told me during intermission at the first dress rehearsal for Dear Santa last week. “I read six different plays and this is the one I chose because it’s Norm Foster, so I know it’s a big sell, and it has more kids in it.”
The plot synopsis for Dear Santa is fairly straightforward. “Santa Claus tries to fulfill a child’s special Christmas wish while his staff attempts to overcome a supply shortage at the North Pole.”
Bob Loepkky plays Santa. His Santa seems weary from the stress and exhaustion of getting ready for Christmas. He’s dressed in pyjama bottoms and a Revelstoke Grizzlies jersey. The elf choir sounds terrible (“I’ve heard better sounds out of a Whoopee cushion,” one character quips) and he’s being pestered by Lewis Flapdoodle (Denny Kaulback), a smooth talking sleigh salesman who’s trying to get Santa to buy a rocket-powered sleight, and he won’t take no for an answer.
Around him, Santa’s chief of staff Algernon Gladstone (Benjamin Menzies), shop steward Bozidar (Darren McKay) and housekeeper Octavia (Svea Exner), try to keep the toy making going, despite a lack of wood glue. Algernon is pompous and stuck-up, Bozidar speaks with a quasi-Russian accent and constantly butchers the English language, and Octavia has a crush on Algernon – but he doesn’t know it.
The elves are played by 12 Revelstoke children – Gavin Camara, Sarah Carey, Everet Carter, Madeline Carter, Aza Deschamps, Holly Hamilton, Sophia Laurence, Mercedes Loepkky, Thomas MacDonald, Donald Robichaud, Brooklynn Webber and Cassie Whyte. They dance and bounce across the stage with glee, making toys and singing songs.
Their bright blue, red, purple and yellow costumes were designed and created by Gillian Hewitt.
Then there’s Kit Bishop (Darby Stillwell), a stowaway who wound up at the North Pole trying to deliver a letter from her brother to Santa. She finds herself in the middle of all this mayhem.
Dear Santa features the largest cast the Revelstoke Theatre Company has used in a number of years, and it’s the first with children in a while too. She said directing has been fun, but also a challenge.
“It’s a hassle getting that many people available all the time. I’ve got two boys in hockey, the girls are in dance class and all that. The hard thing is getting that many people on task for the same schedule.”
The set wasn’t fully set up at the show I attended because of events last weekend at the RPAC. Zofie Humphreys, the producer, said there was a lot of support from the community for the play and she expected a lot of people to come out.
Dear Santa is at the Revelstoke Performing Art Centre from Dec. 6–8 and 12–14. All shows are at 7:30 p.m., except the Dec. 8 show, which is at two p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for students and seniors, and $5 for pre-schoolers at the Dec. 8 show.