New ‘Night Before Christmas’ takes familiar story on fresh journey | TribLIVE.com
Theater & Arts

New ‘Night Before Christmas’ takes familiar story on fresh journey

Shirley McMarlin
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Courtesy of Tim Drucker
Tim Drucker is director of “Ken Ludwig’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’” national tour, making a Nov. 29 stop at The Palace Theatre in Greensburg.

The phrase “Twas the Night Before Christmas” is as much a part of the holiday lexicon as Santa’s “Ho ho ho!”

From the Clement Moore poem (actually titled “A Visit From St. Nicholas”) to the oft-sung song to animated and live-action movies, it’s a refrain embedded into our Christmas psyches.

Now, a Greensburg audience will have a chance to see a new addition to the oeuvre.

A national tour of “Ken Ludwig’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ ” will make a stop at The Palace Theatre for a show at 2 p.m. Nov. 29.

Expect something like “Baby Shark meets Lizzo,” director Tim Drucker says.

“It’s ostensibly a play — a play with music,” he says. “It has an original score with rap and contemporary sounds. It’s fun for all ages.

“It’s a fast-paced comedy, with inventive sets and costumes and some very imaginative props,” he adds. “The text is beautiful, the actors are very inventive. It’s full of surprises — almost like ‘The Princess Bride.’ ”

Familiar farces

People familiar with Ludwig’s work will recognize those elements.

The York, Pa.-born playwright and theater director is known for farces such as “Lend Me a Tenor,” “Moon Over Buffalo” and “Leading Ladies.” Signature elements include improbable situations, mistaken identity and madcap chases.

His plays have been produced by area theater companies, including Saint Vincent Summer Theatre and Mountain Playhouse.

The new Christmas play promises more of the same, Drucker says.

The play opens, as expected, on Christmas Eve, as Uncle Brierly settles in to recite the poem to the children of the household. In walks a talking mouse with his own version.

The mouse, Amos, insists that Santa skipped the house the year before, a claim backed up by Emily, Brierly’s niece and Amos’ best friend. They’re afraid the same thing will happen again.

An elf enters to confirm that Santa’s naughty-or-nice list is indeed missing and other families have suffered the same fate. The elf, Amos and Emily set off for the North Pole to rectify the problem, a journey fraught with perils such as “a frenzied, confused chase and a lively sword fight.”

And there’s Santa

“This production is sure to create new holiday memories for families everywhere,” Drucker says, and with dates from New York City to Seattle, that’s likely to happen.

Drucker’s directorial resume tends toward the fun and farcical.

He spoke to the Tribune-Review recently from New York City, where he was getting ready to open an off-Broadway parody called “Love Actually? The Unauthorized Musical Parody.” He’s also directed “Friends! The Musical Parody,” “Hallmarc’s A Christmas Murder” and the decidedly risque ”Sex Tips for Straight Women From a Gay Man.”

He calls himself a Ludwig fan.

“The thing about him is that he has such a facility with language, and he really understands the nature of farce. It’s a genre that doesn’t always get its due,” Drucker says.

He calls “Night Before Christmas” “a multilayered experience. It’s like a Pixar movie — the language works on two levels, both for the kids and so the parents won’t be sitting there rolling their eyes. For me, that’s what is exciting.

“And there’s Santa,” he adds. “I don’t know if that’s a spoiler, but Santa comes in at the end.”

Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Shirley at 724-836-5750, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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