Christmas Belles, December, 2009 -- a staged reading

The fifth winter Hall Restoration Fund benefit was staged reading Christmas Belles by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten, directed by Robert Lunde.  The challenge of the annual benefit is to perform with scripts in hand, minimal props and costumes, whatever set is left from the last production, and less than a week's rehearsal.

Director Robert Lunde opens the show and introduces his added choir, which threw in snippets of carols and commentary throughout.  Mark Proulx (keyboard), Dana T. Ring, Timothy Glynn, Darlene LaPointe, Olivia Olds, Gwen Moriarty (face hidden) Emma Rucci, Sadie Moriarty, Lizzie Rucci, Shannon Proulx, and Joan Perkins-Smith (in purple).
Geneva (Linda Grames), owner of the Fayro, Texas, florist shop and bus station, complains to her friend that Honey Raye Futrelle is going to be directing the Christmas pageant this year.  Geneva has been the director for the past 27 years. Honey Raye (Mary Fernandez-Sierra) gushes to her niece Gina Jo (Trish Urso) about her show, "Bethelem-a-palooza."  She hopes her status in town will rise after this.  It can't get much lower.
Twink Futrelle (Amy Rucci) is in jail for burning down half the town while trying to get revenge on her ex-boyfriend.  Nonetheless, Deputy John Curtis (Rudolph Saccoccia) admires her for her willingness to help with repairs to the jailhouse. Frankie Futrelle Dubberly (Vanda Doyle), pregnant with twins (again), sympathizes with her husband Dub (Brian Corwin) on having to play Santa at the mall.
Frankie and her friend Rhonda Lynn (Kelly Seip) and daughter Gina Jo help "backstage" at the tabernacle. The new pastor, Justin (Wesley Olds), asks for a little help.  He's in love with Gina Jo but for some reason she's been distant lately.
Honey Raye has given Raynerd (Allen Nott) a small part in the pageant.  Raynerd may be a little slow, and he may insist on taking that red wagon with him everywhere, but he's a good man. Dep. Curtis has arranged for Twink to be released from jail for the night so she can attend her sister's pageant.  Honey Raye is very grateful.  Twink thinks maybe a little too grateful.
(Sometimes the choir are also stagehands.) Justin and Dub are playing Santa at the mall, but Dub is not doing well: he's passing a kidney stone! Patsy (Becky Schoenfeld), never a fan of the Futrelles, has bought her way into the pageant and will be reading the Christmas Story from the book of Luke.
Things come to a head.  Geneva has been interfering with Honey Raye's direction all night.  Rhonda Lynn tries to calm things down and Honey Raye snaps at her, too.  Frankie then drops the bombshell that Rhonda Lynn is their sister!  Everyone is shocked, except Patsy, who takes evil delight in this.
Everything in the pageant is going wrong.  Food poisoning has knocked out most of the parishoners, so Honey Raye is forced to asked for help from Geneva.  After a little blackmail on Geneva's part, she agrees to co-produce the show. Dub's kidney stone has settled for now.  The doctor has given him some super-duper painkillers to take when the stone moves again.
Desperate for help, Justin asks Dep. Curtis for advice on how to get Gina Jo to marry him. Meanwhile, Geneva is cracking the whip.  Over Frankie's objections, she orders Dub to open the show as Santa Claus.
Dub tries his best but... ...the stone moves again and Dub is in agony.  Geneva pulls the screaming Santa off the stage.
In the nativity scene, Justin proposes to Gina Jo as "Baby Jesus" (Jonathan Rucci) watches. Patsy needles Rhonda Lynn about being a member of the pathetic Futrelle family.  She's so nasty about it that...
...when Rhonda Lynn and Frankie discover that the "aspirin" Patsy took was really Dub's painkillers, they decide not to tell her. Dep. Curtis is persuaded to join the show as Elvis, even though "impersonating the King" seems a little sacrilegious.
It's time for Patsy's part, but she's completely looped. She tries to get the choir to join in a song that is definitely not in the script. After Patsy is dragged off by Honey Raye and Geneva, Raynerd is left on stage.  He may be slow, but his love for Christmas is genuine.  He recites the Christmas Story from memory, simply and honestly, while Gwen Moriarty plays What Child Is This? on the guitar.  If this didn't bring a tear to your eye, you're a Grinch!

The deputy's Elvis number is a fantastic hit, so everyone goes out onstage for a group carol sing.  Patsy is wheeled out by Raynerd and all take bow.

Jerry Zalewski photos
More photos
Other Theatre links:

In The Spotlight, Inc.
Pillow Talking—"He Said/She Said"
The Connecticut Callboard
Connecticut Gilbert and Sullivan Society

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