Clockwise fro top left: Mike Burmester, Neleigh Olson, Juergen Tossman, Brad Castleberry, Clara Burton & Tom Morton in The New Mrs. Claus. Photo courtesy of Bunbury Theatre.
The New Mrs. Claus
Written & directed by Juergen K. Tossmann
Reviewed by Brian Kennedy
Entire contents copyright © 2015 by Brian Kennedy. All rights reserved.
With humor, poignant moments, and a blending of Christmas classics and contemporary references, Bunbury Theatre adds to its ever-expanding list of charming holiday pieces with The New Mrs. Claus.
The New Mrs. Claus focuses on four Santas in a therapy room. Literally, their names are Nick Saint Nicholas (Brad Castleberry), Kris Kringle (Mike Burmester), Santa Claus (Tom Morton) and Babbo Natale, the Italian name for Santa (Juergen K. Tossmann). All of them fit the Santa Claus part to a point, complete with the white beards and performing of Christmas songs.
The performing, well, whistling, of a Christmas song gets the play underway in a very humorous fashion. The four Santas sit in their chairs in awkward silence. Then, one of them starts whistling, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”, followed by another, then another. Hand claps and trumpet-like sounds are soon added. Just listening to the buildup while seeing the group therapist Mary Sunshine (Clara Burton) looking on and shaking her head was a good way to set the comedic tone of the play.
A majority of the first act showcases a battle for control of the group between the Santas, who are full of tidings and good cheer, and Mary Sunshine, who is the polar opposite. The Santas routinely take over, thanks to random outbursts of songs or the laying of ground rules. Burmester, in particular, had some very funny moments leading on Christmas songs.
Burton, meanwhile, has no easy task in holding her own against her four patients, but she succeeds, deploying through Mary Sunshine an ultra-serious, stern demeanor as she all but forces the Santas to sit down and continue the therapy.
During the therapy, all four Santas talk about their home lives. They each have a new significant other, a new Mrs. Claus. Neleigh Olson portrays all four of them, mostly through flashbacks. Despite the difficult task, Olson more or less pulls off each of the characters. The most distinctive is Snugums, a conservative, gun-loving redneck complete with overalls and a believable accent. Olson was simply fun to watch in this character. Also, while portraying Santa Claus’s significant other in Act II, she provides the right amount of emotion to a monologue that brings extra heart and needed depth to the show.
Besides Olson’s speech, the second act provides more hilarity, poignant moments and realizations about faith and the true meaning of the holiday season. A surprising twist towards the end helps to tie the show up in a nice ribbon and bow.
The show was consistently of a high quality, save for a couple of line flubs (which were quickly recovered), and nothing felt truly forced. (Oreos, Donald Trump, Whole Foods, Cialis, the TV show Naked and Afraid, and even the recent Starbucks red cup controversy, get mentions in the show.)
The New Mrs. Claus is another charming entry into Bunbury Theatre’s growing repertoire of original plays. Juergen K. Tossman, who not only created but also directed the show and performed as Babbo Natale, has created a fine piece with a fresh perspective on timeless lessons. Check this show out.
The New Mrs. Claus
December 4, 5, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17, 18, and 19 at 7:30 pm
December 6, 13 and 20 at 2:30 pm
At The Henry Clay Theatre
604 South Third Street
Louisville, KY 40203
Brian Kennedy is a nearly life-long Louisville resident who has performed in plays since 2004. He also wrote extensively about the Louisville theatre scene for Louisville.com and Examiner.com from 2009-2015. Currently, he maintains the theatre blog LouBriantheater. When not involved in the theatre scene, he is an avid runner, participating in 5Ks throughout the state and in southern Indiana. He is also race director for the Movie Lovers 5K, which will take place in Jeffersontown in March 2016.