Doug and Laura Marr have so much fun doing Witch Way to the North Pole at their Circle Theatre that it doesn’t matter if you’re a grade-schooler fascinated by its young witches and elves or adults entertained by all the pop culture tidbits.
His writing and her directing are aided by a high-energy performance from a third-grader named Katya Reason who plays Lisbeth, a sassy little witch who wants to see the real Santa at his home base. She shines in this central role.
Katya’s mother, both in life and the play, Christa Reason, sputters with indignation over her daughter’s impudence, and delivers a lively performance highlighted when her frustration makes it nearly impossible to spit out such abhorred names as Frosty the Snowman or even desirable ones like Hostess Ho-Hos. As a proper witch, she often refers to her bubbling cauldron, which Lisbeth more accurately calls her crock pot.
And those references are only the tip of the iceberg in a script laden with more of the same and punctuated by a plethora of sound and light cues that must have kept Doug busy at the controls of the latest in his long run of original plays, first at his popular Diner Theater and now at Central Presbyterian Church.
Nobody gets more completely in the spirit of this over-the-top craziness than director Laura while playing Santa’s CEO, an angry elf named Weeble. Maybe a comment from David Sindelar’s stressed-out Santa best explains why Santa has a CEO and a CFO (Kiersten Wendell as the elf Caprice).
When the little witch Lisbeth asks him about the traditional Santa-style flying about with gifts, he says, “Sorry, kid, that all went out when we went corporate years ago.” So his stress and Weeble’s anger stem from noisy breakdowns in the high-tech production line at, by the way, not the north but the Midwest Pole.
Every mishap provides Laura Marr another opportunity for elfin antics ranging from karate kicks and chops to a struggle that evolves into “uh, uh, uh, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.” Her bossy status is established at the start when she chastises an ailing Santa for violating his doctor-ordered diet by eating three doughnuts for breakfast.
She snaps orders when fellow elf Telvard (8th-grader William Donlan) reports a breakdown in the toy production line, but as mishaps mount, the call goes out for The Mighty Quinn, played by Katya’s father and Christa’s husband, Rex Reason. His low-key persona works well enough for a geek tech wizard whose bio reports that he last performed in a first-grade production of Three Billy Goats Gruff.
Quinn’s comings and goings, apparently on a very unmuffled Harley, add to the motley sounds highlighted by all those toy factory crashes. Marr musters anything from Wizard of Oz flying monkey music to the theme from television’s Bewitched.
Of course, some magic from Christa’s Driselda aka Samantha comes with a nose twitch and that little boink sound.
With Lisbeth dressed in a red “I believe in Santa” shirt and the other young witches in black, it’s left to Maggie Dowd as the taller witch named Della to mutter, “What a world, what a world.” Paired with soft-spoken Julie Bielewicz, Maggie manages to be both a droll and dramatic eighth grader.
Only moments after “What a world” from Oz, we get Santa complaining, “Oh, the humanity,” which moderns are prone to place elsewhere than the radio voice describing the Hindenburg dirigible disaster.
It almost all works, with the exception perhaps of something looking like “Warren Buffett’s situation room.” But who cares when we quickly get the hippie labor agitator, Gunar played by Christopher Elston, breaking out with “The times they are achangin’.”
He introduces a subplot that urges Santa to fight back against the Asian sweat shops producing some of his toys. The agitating Gunar wants to blast corporate evil-doers in terms offensive to corporate Santa.
All this goes well with the carrot cake and coffee after the dinners served by the Circle Theatre. If you finish dessert and the show hasn’t started, read the bios, where hefty Dave Sindelar notes he’s the perfect Santa because he “has always dreamed” of touring the world “and eating everyone’s milk and cookies.”
Witch Way to the North Pole runs Dec.7-22, dinner at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m., Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9 and 16, at Circle Theatre, 55th and Leavenworth. Tickets are $15, $25 with dinner, both $2 less for seniors, $20 for students, $8 for children. Call 402.553.4715.