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Christmas at the Old Bull & Bush ~ MetroStage

Jordan Wright
December 11, 2018 
Special to The Alexandria Times

Katherine Riddle & Jimmy Mavrikes ~Photo credit ~ C. Stanley Photography

If visions of sugarplums are dancing in your head, then this probably isn’t the show for you.  No, Virginia, this is for those that see Christmas as a time to carouse, occasionally reflect, and celebrate camaraderie, but most assuredly it will not be seen as a Victorian postcard with angels in flight wearing halos of mistletoe.

This is how this clever holiday variety show might have been performed at the famed Hampstead, England public house circa 1918 – witty, silly and a lot risqué.  Written and directed by well-known DC actor Catherine Flye (Catch her now as Grandma in Billy Elliott at Signature Theatre), this 6-person British variety music hall show is sure to jolly up your holidays with Vaudeville-era tunes, Christmas carols, silly jokes, a sing-along and a moving tribute, Christmas in the Trenches, an homage to this year’s 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.

Sherri L. Edelen and Albert Coia ~ Photo credit ~ C. Stanley Photography

The Chairman, played by Brian O’Connor, is a nattily dressed, elegant gent who is emcee to a small troupe of performers – Miss Florrie Forde (Sherri L. Edelen), an endearing, middle-aged singer and hoofer (Neat fact: Florrie Forde was a famed Australian music hall songstress, who graced British stages with her incomparable voice for half a century.), Miss Daisy May (Katherine Riddle), a pretty ingenue with the voice of a nightingale, Mr. Bertie Ramsbottom (Albert Coia), an endearing, dipsomaniacal comedian, Mr. Percival Pennyfeather (Jimmy Mavrikes), Daisy’s dashing love interest, and Maestro Peabody (Joseph Walsh), the music hall’s pianist.

Brian O'Connor ~ Photo credit ~ C. Stanley Photography

Here are the titles of a smattering of the 34 classic tunes, seven of which are audience participation – lyrics provided, thank you very much.  It should give you an idea of what’s in store from this delightful veteran cast – “Hold Your Hand Out, Naughty Boy”, “Spotted Dick” and “The Night She Cried in my Beer”.  These are interspersed with traditional English carols like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “Good King Wenceslas” and vaudeville-era songs like the tear-jerker “Sonny Boy”, the cockney-inspired “Lambeth Walk”, and more.  In the euphemistic tune, “Please Don’t Touch My Plums”, Miss Forde croons, “You can grope me cantaloupes and stroke me artichokes, but please don’t touch my plums.”

Expect more than cheeky humor in this series of vignettes played by these lovable cast members, when the troupe performs a snippet from “The Christmas Carol” and a reading of John McRae’s wartime classic, “In Flanders Field” when Brits lost so many of their sons and fathers.  Especially poignant is Katherine Riddle’s exquisite voice and tender rendition of “In the Bleak Midwinter”, once named the best Christmas carol in a poll of the world’s leading choirmasters.

Front Row: (l-r) Albert Coia and Brian O'Connor - Back Row (l-r) Sherri L. Edelen, Katherine Riddle, Jimmy Mavrikes ~ Photo credit ~ C. Stanley Photography

Foot-stomping (ordered by The Chairman) lends a party atmosphere to this lively show chock-a-block with enough wink-wink double entendres to warm the cockles of your irreverent, Christmas-loving heart.

Set Consultant, Carl Gudenius, Costume Design by Michael Sharp and Lighting Design by Alexander Keen.

Christmas crackers, British beers, cider, mince pies and sausage rolls for purchase at the bar, Christmas at the Old Bull & Bush runs through December 30th at MetroStage - 1201 North Royal Street, Alexandria, 22314.  For tickets visit www.metrostage.org.

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