Grab your flip flops and ugly 80s Christmas sweater and let the Chemainus Theatre Festival take you on a trip to Cancun this holiday season, that is if you don’t mind spending a bit of quality time with the Cornwall family.
The comedic play is co-written by the theatre’s own Nicolle Nattrass and artistic director Mark DuMez and is the sequel to Countryside Christmas which debuted on stage in 2011.
A retro throwback to the era of 80s tunes, big hair and rock star eyeliner, Cornwalls’ All-Inclusive Cancun Christmas is a musical barrel of laughs reminiscent of the movie genre that launched Home Alone and National Lampoon’s Vacation series.
“The dad’s decided to surprise them with a trip to Mexico for him and his wife’s 25th anniversary,” said director Barbara Tomasic, whose most recent project locally was Footloose in the summer of 2016.
“None of the kids know at the start of the play. They’re just told to meet at the airport and then it all goes sideways. It’s cute, and crazy and zanny,”
The Christmas calamity stars David Adams as Harry, the dad, Marlee Walchuk as mom Judy, Mack Gordon as the rowdy son Tommy and Emily Henny as daughter Sissy who brings along her newlywed husband Alexander Nicoll played by Kyle.
Harry, the dad, is ‘thrifty’ and purchases a discount deal where unfortunately every excursion is one upgrade after the next.
“I think one of the biggest foibles is that he books this one star package and they all have to stay in one room together,” Tomasic said.
Add to the mix a donkey (not a real one for those who had high hopes after the 2018 season launch luncheon), a lost guitar named Ethel and a special delivery that Sissy and Kyle have kept a secret.
“That’s the biggest thing is that she’s pregnant but nobody knows she’s pregnant so of course she has to try and hide it,” said Tomasic.
Some of the script is even based on actual events that occurred when Nattrass’s family took a similar type of family vacation.
The music is also all from the 80s while mixing in Christmas jingles, with costumes created by Michelle Lieffertz, sets by Carolyn Rapanos and lighting by Conor Moore.
Stage manager Nicole Lamb and assistant stage manager Koh McRadu complete the experience of bringing joy, peace, love and all things totally retro.
“You look at that era and it just wreaks of comedy in so many ways,” Tomasic said.
Actors were given the freedom contribute in the creation of their character making the play “a really collaborative process for us which is really wonderful too for bonding but it’s also always fun.”
Tomasic, who hails from Vancouver said she enjoys the challenge of comedy and finds it in many ways more difficult than directing drama because it can be more fluid and emotional.
“I try to approach comedy from a place that is real. That’s why those zany movies (Home Alone and National Lampoon) are so successful – they’re based on an amalgamation of everyone’s true stories,” she said.
“Comedy doesn’t thrive in chaos. It thrives in structure. You let people play and then you narrow it down and then they have to use that structure to bounce off of. It has to look unstructured but it can’t be unstructured in its process or else it just gets messy.”
But just when you’re stomach is sore from all the laughter the charm of Cornwalls just might start to wear on you.
“There’s a lot of really beautiful moments in this show about love that kind of take you by surprise and remind you of how special it can be when you’re with people you love,” Tomasic said. “And when you go through a crazy crisis with them, or crazy times, it can bring people together and there’s something really beautiful about that.”
Cornwalls’ All-Inclusive Cancun Christmas opens Friday (Nov. 16) and runs until Dec. 31. For tickets call the box office at 1-800-565-7738 or visit chemainustheatre.ca