Masquers and Legion join forces for festive dinner theatre
“Winter Wonderettes” singers aim to please
Looking for some wholesome food and light entertainment?
Masquers Theatre Company can accommodate you.
For the next two weekends, dinner theatre can be found in Forest Lake at American Legion Post 225, 355 W. Broadway Ave.
The evening begins with a full meal, either a slow-roasted, bone-in pork tenderloin or crisp-skin roasted chicken. Both entrées come with sage dressing, mashed potato, gravy, a cooked vegetable, salad, and dessert. (Specify a dinner choice when you make reservations.)
After the meal, take on the role of an employee at Harper’s Hardware Store, sitting in the audience for their annual Christmas party in 1968.
In the two-act holiday musical “Winter Wonderettes,” by Roger Bean and Brian Baker, local singers Ian Lexvold, Bailey Parenteau, Julia Waletzko and Emily Lehmann play Harper’s employees who provide entertainment while waiting for Mr. Harper (Santa) to come on stage.
They sing 20 Christmas songs in a variety of styles, separated by a conversation that lets the audience get to know them.
The first song, “Mr. Santa,” opens the show with a jazz flair.
“We Wanna See Santa Do the Mambo” brings a hint of the Caribbean, and “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” is done in a bebop arrangement.
The story is not deep, but it does have sad parts, as when one girl reveals that her father left her family on Christmas Day when she was 7.
Cindy Lou, played by Waletzko, says “Mom and I moved around a lot after that.”
What Cindy Lou wants is “a tree full of toys and tinsel, a roof full of plywood reindeer, a lake full of perfect skaters.”
Her ballad, “All those Christmas Clichés,” drew applause at the Dec. 1 showing.
This was the third time in the show that the audience interrupted the story to show their appreciation.
The first was when Betty Jean (Lexvold) led the group in “Christmas Will Be Just Another Lonely Day,” after telling the other girls that her romantic interest “left his ring on the nightstand and left in the middle of the night.”
The second was for “Run, Run, Rudolph” (which Betty Jean joins toward the end, beer in hand).
In one scene Suzy (Parenteau) shares a happy Christmas memory and leads the ensemble in “Suzy Snowflake,” for which she dons a white dress and tap dances.
In another, Missy (Lehmann) announces that this will be her first Christmas as a married woman and sings “This Christmas” while holding a bright red bit of lingerie in front of her dress.
After a nice solo line by Waletzko on “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” the audience is invited to join in the singing.
Near the end, three “hardware store employees” from the audience are invited to come on stage and be part of the next number, “Ring Those Christmas Bells.”
This is not staged: Each night, whoever is in the audience is a potential victim. At the Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 performances, everyone chosen was happy to take part.
Two cast members, Parenteau and Lehmann, also have other roles. Parenteau choreographed the show and Lehmann created the costumes.
The co-directors are also the band, with Karen Hillman on piano and Craig Moen on electric bass guitar and saxophone.
The stage manager is Sarah Wiberg, and Peter Wiberg runs the sound and lights.
Moen said opening night on Nov. 30 was a success. “I hadn’t slept well for three weeks,” he said, but “after last night, I slept fine.”
Hillman was also happy with the result and praised the cast. “They worked so hard with such a short amount of time,” she said.
Who should attend?
This is not a show for children, and there were none in the audience on Saturday.
If you like good food, light comedy, lots of Christmas music and a little bit of audience participation, you will probably be glad you came.
Good singing with excellent enunciation and a good sound system mean you will be able to hear everything that goes on.
The talented cast work well together.
The plot is corny and doesn’t offer much to think about after you get home.
If you prefer a serious story line with an important message, you should probably look elsewhere.
You might be wondering about Ian Lexvold, a 19-year-old man, playing the part of Betty Jean.
Actually, he pulls it off so well it’s a non-issue. As Betty Jean, Lexvold sings, jokes, and flirts like a woman.
His tall wig provides opportunities for humor, as when the other girls try to put something around Betty Jean’s neck, or when they offer solace by hugging her high hair.
Lexvold said the only thing holding the wig onto his head is gravity, so it must be heavy — but he carries that off well, too.
The show will continue two more weekends in December: Thursday and Friday, Dec. 6 and 7 at 6 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 8 at 2 p.m.; Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Dec. 13 to 15 at 6 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 15 at 12:30 p.m.
To see the show without a meal, tickets are $15.
For reservations call 651-464-5823 or visit www.masquerstheatre.org.