The problem with holiday traditions is that they’re always the same. See the Nutcracker. Trim the tree. Over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house. Same, same. Ditto, ditto.
The nice thing about the Pickleville Playhouse’s annual production of Juanito Bandito’s Christmas Carol is that it’s never the same from year to year. Or from night to night, for that matter. The only thing you can be certain of when you sit down to watch a Pickleville show is that you’re going to have a great time.
The ongoing production of Juanito’s Bandito’s Christmas Carol 2019 is no exception. This show has all the theatrical elements we’ve come to expect from Pickleville productions: upbeat original music, great vocal performances, zany characterizations, stylish dancing and that special brand of improvisational comedy that often prompts hysterical laughter on both sides of the footlights.
Of course, these Pickleville holiday productions have to share some similarities. The Juanito Bandito Christmas Carol shows are always parodies of the Charles Dickens’ classic tale, so the plotlines are naturally going to be familiar. And TJ Davis -- the madcap bard of the multi-talented and multi-generational theatrical Davis clan -- will always appear as his most infamous creation: Juanito Bandito. Who would want to change that?
But the devil is always in the details in a Pickleville production and one of the nicest new details about Juanito’s Bandito’s Christmas Carol 2019 is the addition of Whitney Hatch to the cast as the good-hearted elf Alia. Ms. Hatch has a beautiful voice, projects just-the-right aura of innocence and sincerity for her character and looks absolutely lovely with pointed ears.
The rest of the cast members are all Bandito Christmas veterans.
TJ Davis is, of course, the personification of Juanito Bandito, who is the hilarious personification of political incorrectness. The playwright has given himself some great jokes, but mostly he plays straight man to his talented female co-stars this year.
One of those scene-stealers is Kenzie Davis, fresh from a triumph as Wednesday in the Pickleville fall production of The Addams Family. She plays Bandito’s sidekick Gratilda, who would rather write grossly inappropriate books for children than rob their families.
Sharing the comic spotlight is Brittany Shamy, back again as Astrid, a daffy elf with an unfortunate inclination toward pyromania.
Both those actresses take full advantage of every opportunity to ad lib during Juanito Bandito’s Christmas Carol 2019, gleefully going off-script into
pop-culture tangents and wild physical comedy bits with sidesplitting results.
Kudos to Kenzie Davis for also learning to dance while riding a two-wheel hoverboard.
Cory Keate rounds out the cast in a quirky portrayal of Otto, an elf exiled from North Pole for his own good.
Another charming addition to Juanito Bandito’s Christmas Carol 2019 is a bustling horde of teenage elves who amusingly interact with the audience and dress (and undress) the stage during the play’s pre-show and intermission.
Spirited live music for the production was provided by Josh Musselman on piano, Taylor Clark on cello and Jennifer Ostermiller on violin.
Evening and matinee performances of Juanito Bandito’s Christmas Carol 2019 will continue Friday and Saturday at the Ellen Eccles Theatre in Logan and at the Grand Theatre in Salt Lake City from Dec. 18th to 23rd.