The Holiday Extravaganza in Oceano

Dec 8, 2021 | 2021 Articles, Terrance V. Mc Arthur, Theatre

by Terrance Mc Arthur

Not far south of Pismo Beach, in the town of Oceano, there sits a brightly-painted building, (They had to have something to do during the pandemic shutdown, so they painted), The Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville. Since it’s holly-eggnog-mistletoe-ho-ho-ho time, it’s time for the Melodrama’s The Holiday Extravaganza, a Christmas-Spirit booster shot in three acts—a brisk version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, a fractured fairy tale opera, and a vaudeville program of song, dance, and comedy.

A Christmas Carol is as familiar as familiar can get—Scrooge (Billy Breed) is haunted by ghosts who remind him of his past, show him the present, and predict a dismal future, changing him into a jolly good fellow. What lifts this version? Scrooge and puppets.

What’s that?

I saw Breed in Frankenstein’s Bride a few months ago (He played a silly innkeeper in lederhosen). As Scrooge, he is amazing, masterful, nimble, and mesmerizing. His grumpiness is Grinch-y, his sorrow is King Lear-y, and his joy is Tigger-y.

The Melodrama staff faced a problem—how to include Tiny Tim without putting a pre-teen child at Covid-19 risk. Enter Mary Hildebrand Nagler, a master puppet-maker from Oregon. Tiny Tim, one of her modified rod puppet creations for the show, reacts to the action around him, moves like a child with a crutch, and sounds like a child, thanks to the careful work of Jeff Salsbury, who also plays an energetic Jacob Marley. Marley nearly squeezes the life from Scrooge while keeping a social distance, perhaps by using Jedi mind tricks. Marley’s chains have a life of their own, controlling his movements.

Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf (Mike Fiore) come to comic life in an opera based on classical music parodies, with a touch or two of pop tunes. Junior Wolf (Salsbury) doesn’t want to follow in his father’s carnivorous pawsteps. Little Red (Meggie Siegrist—sidelined for a while with a broken arm, and filled in by Eleise Moore, the Melodrama’s artistic director) is a cell-phone-obsessed teen, taking selfies and texting OMG and LOL. Ordered to visit her grandmother Aurora (Sydni Abenido, who also plays Red’s mother) at an Old Folk’s Home with a pig (Toby Tropper) whose brother was eaten by the BBW, Rapunzel (Romy Evans), and a charming Prince (Ben Abbott, who is Fezziwig and a towering Ghost of Christmas Present earlier in the evening). The story turns on a swallowed GPS and a quest for an iPhone 13. Silliness is had by all.

The evening ends with songs, rapping reindeer, an elves version of “Who’s on First?”, and musical glasses (led by Lacey McNamara, the Melodrama’s musical director, who deserves every dollar dropped into her piano’s tip jar). The vaudeville/olio acts are delightful, the comic opera is truly comic, and A Christmas Carol will make your heart sing.

This is a professional theatre. The actors rehearse by day and perform by night. Before the show and during intermissions, they work the snack bar, singing when grateful customers leave tips.

The Holiday Extravaganza runs through December 31 at The Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville, 1863 Front Street, Oceano, California, See their website for information and tickets.

If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, and also on podbean. A new Christmas episode went up this week.

Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur worked for the Fresno County Public Library for three decades. He is retired, but not retiring. A storyteller, puppeteer, writer, actor, magician, basketmaker, and all-around interesting person, his goal is to make life more unusual for everyone he meets.


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