Christmas Queen: An Improv Comedy Fairytale is full of holiday spirit
A Vancouver TheatreSports League production. At the Improv Centre on Saturday, November 30. Continues until December 21
The yuletide season for me has officially arrived. I’m traditionally slow to embrace this festive time of year, but the annual Vancouver TheatreSports Christmas show always provides a quick shot to the heart. I resist and resist, then—bam—I’ve got the spirit.
That’s also the plot of many a Christmas story. A curmudgeon, evil or otherwise, has no regard for the holiday and yet in the end is shown its true meaning. Add VTSL’s Christmas Queen: An Improv Comedy Fairytale to the list. The titular antagonist is a hag of a monarch who does everything in her power to ruin the day for the townsfolk, only to be swept up in the festivities by the generous and forgiving residents. It’s classic because it works every single time.
On Saturday, the Queen was played hilariously by Brian Anderson with blue wig and garish makeup. The normally phlegmatic Nathan Clark played the narrator with more wide-eyed impish enthusiasm than I’ve seen from him before, keeping things moving and giving the actors challenging and fun directions, which were then performed ably by Taz VanRassel, Eric Fell, Chris Casillan, Scott Patey, and Margret Nyfors.
On this night, the troupe went with the audience suggestion that the town’s main industry was marmalade, so everything hinged on that, with the villainous Queen releasing excess pectin into the air to create “global warming on a town-wide scale”, and sticking the citizenry in their place so they couldn’t celebrate Christmas. Yes, as Nyfors aptly put it, they were in a real jam.
Every improv game within the overall framework served the story and all the comics got big laughs through their characterizations, quick wit, or both. Fell, as a fire-breathing dragon in the unfortunate position of lying at the feet of a drunk and whizzing mayor played by Patey, who showed huge restraint by not going for the obvious Rob Ford gag, shone with some great lines throughout.
You don’t always think of live comedy and children, but like all VTSL 7:30 p.m. performances, this is family-friendly entertainment. Kids will love the over-the-top booing and hissing that’s encouraged every time the Queen steps into the spotlight, and grownups will appreciate more adult references.
The first half lagged a bit as the story was coming together, but with the wickedness ramped up after the intermission, along with the ridiculous situations, the laughter was, too. Not to give anything away, because the details will be different every night, but the Queen eventually saw the error of her ways. Like the Grinch's, her heart grew at least three sizes.
And this Christmas Scrooge’s did too. As I say, it works every time. Bring on the big day.