On Theater: Comical 'Christmas Belles' rings at WCC

It may be rushing the season a tad, but the "Christmas Belles" are ringing in all their farcical glory at the Westminster Community Theatre.

The comedy by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten is set in the fictional town of Fayro, Texas, which likely is just two hoots and a holler down the road from Tuna, an equally fictitious abode where the equally satirical "Greater Tuna" played out in the 1980s.

And, just as "Greater Tuna" spawned "A Tuna Christmas," the WCT show is a spinoff from an earlier script, "Dearly Beloved," which also played at Westminster two years ago. Several of the actors from that piece return, along with the director, Greg Z. Newcomb, who has his hands full with the episodic craziness (the show has 27 scenes, many abbreviated).

The laughs come early and often as the Futrelle sisters and a few other nut cases join forces to put on a Christmas pageant. As the show opens, Honey Raye Futrelle (Cleta Cohen) has just taken over the festivities from a riled-up Geneva Musgrave (Mary-Ann Saranchak), who's helmed the program for the past 27 years, ably aided by Rhonda Lynn (Cheryl Sauter).

Another Futrelle sister, Twink (Karla Abrams), appears in a jailhouse jumpsuit after torching the double-wide trailer of a cheating boyfriend. She's guarded by the ramrod-straight Deputy Sheriff John Curtis Buntner (Jeff June), a lawman who goes by the book, however smudged the pages.

The third sister is Frankie Dubberly (Joan Meissenburg), in the ninth month of a late-in-life pregnancy with her second set of twins. Her husband, Dub (Jim Perham) is off playing Santa Claus while fighting off a painful kidney stone and turning off the kids with his stinky Santa suit.

Their daughter Gina Jo (Tara Michelle Golson) is playing Mary in the Nativity sequence and avoiding the advances of Justin (Robert Dominguez), the church's interim pastor, who's crazy about her. Then there's the local village idiot Raynerd (Sherman Wiggs Jr.), who "just loves Christmas," and the town dowager (Laurie Robbins), who looks down on everyone — quite a trick since she's the shortest member of the cast.

She's also the most effective. After swallowing a pain pill meant for Dub, Robbins puts on a hilariously loopy holiday recital that's a highlight of the show. Cohen shares the achievement spotlight, excellent as the recital's harried director, while June scores a bull's-eye with his rigid lawman, straight out of the Old West with his oversized artillery.

In a company where nearly everyone else is over the top, Wiggs stands out with his gentle, dopey character. Abrams and Sauter also bring some fine holiday cheer to spice up the proceedings.

Whether "Christmas Belles" will get you into the spirit of the season is debatable, but it certainly will lighten your weekend at the Westminster Community Theatre.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Independent.

If You Go

What: "Christmas Belles"

Where: Westminster Community Theatre, 7272 Maple St., Westminster.

When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., 2 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 19

Cost: $10 to $17

Information: (714) 527-5546 or http://www.wctstage.org

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