Nashville Shakespeare Festival presents:
Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then Some!)
Dec. 12, 14 & 15 (All ages)
Belmont University's Troutt Theatre
2112 Belmont Blvd., Nashville
615-255-2273 | nashvilleshakes.org
Remaining showtimes: Sat 7:30 p.m., Sun 2:30 p.m.
Tickets: $20 adults, $18 students, free ages 9 & younger

It's always fantastic to experience something new and outside the box from theater companies, and Nashville Shakespeare Festival (NSF) serves up hilarious holiday hoopla with its first-ever Christmas production. Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then Some!) — written by Michael Carleton, James Fitzgerald and John K. Alvaerez — has been around for several years, and NSF has tweaked it with local references and current events.

The three actors delivering this madcap romp through the holiday season are also NSF staff: Denice Hicks (executive artistic director), Carrie Brewer (marketing director) and Bradley Brown (managing director). This multi-talented threesome delivers an awesome amount of high-energy hijinks in this 90-minute comic adventure through an assortment of BHCs (beloved holiday classics).

It starts out with Hicks' attempt at doing A Christmas Carol with Brown and Brewer bemoaning the idea because it's a show that's overdone, and there are shout-outs to the other theater companies in town doing that particular show this season. Still, Hicks is determined to make it happen, and there are funny jokes about only doing it to raise money to acquire more weapons for NSF's upcoming production of Macbeth.

Brown and Brewer railroad every attempt Hicks makes at starting A Christmas Carol, and rapid-fire laugh-outloud moments at parodies of holiday classics ensue, including How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and A Charlie Brown Christmas.

One of the funniest scenes is the Rudolph parody. The trio makes it known that NSF has to adhere to the exclusive rights the Grand Ole Opry House has with its Rudolph production, so they've had to make a slight adjustment that results in a production of Gustav the Green-Nosed Reingoat. Brown is hysterical playing Gustav, sporting a nose that looks like a radioactive avocado. The Gustav segment is full of jokes that adults will chuckle at (like the Anthony Weiner Pull Toy) while children in the audience are dazzled by the child-like antics.

There's a lot of audience interaction throughout the show, and by the way, the house lights stay on so the cast can interact with the entire crowd. The cast randomly pulls people from the audience up to the stage for some of the fun, including a wacky Fruitcake Game Show that spirals into a debate about the existence of Santa Claus — don't worry, parents of small ones, your kids will walk away still believing. As Hicks, the naysayer, delves into everything about Santa's voyage that defies the laws of physics, Brown's child-like enthusiasm grows as he gets more and more excited about how awesome and magical Santa really is. And here's an important thing that Brewer points out: "When you stop believing in Santa, that's when you start getting clothes for Christmas!"

Brown delivers some of the funniest moments as he rapidly morphs into one character after another. His cowbell-playing Frosty is outstanding. In the midst of all of the comedy throughout the show, Brown also presents an extremely heartfelt moment when he spot-on replicates Linus' speech about the true meaning of the season from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

After a brief intermission, Hicks' wish comes true, because now it's time for A Christmas Carol. Well, sort of... What winds up happening is a mashup of A Christmas Carol and It's a Wonderful Life. If you're like me, you'll be amazed at how much those two stories have in common when seeing them interwoven like this.

Jim Warren's superb direction and the immense talent of Hicks, Brewer and Brown result in a flawless production that truly makes this holiday season more merry and bright. One of the things I love most about this production is that amid all the satire, there's a loving nod to all the stories unfolding onstage.

NSF's production of Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then Some!) is truly a big holiday party for the whole family. You'll enjoy free cookies and other treats, including coffee, cocoa and hot cider. There are door prizes, a Peppermint Twist dance party and a holiday sing-along to send your family off with a merrier spirit this holiday season. This is something you don't want to miss!