A wicked female Grinch-type character steals Christmas from St. Nick and a whole Bavarian town in Olney Theatre's Christmas production of the fairy tale musical, "The Dollmaker's Dilemma," running through Dec. 29.
Produced as part of the Acorn Family Project of the Olney Theatre, the holiday play (with music by John Franceschina and book and lyrics by Ellen Hickey and Cheryl Faraone) tells the story of the unhappy people of Angstland. For 10 years Saint Nicholas the doll maker has been banished by the cruel mayor's wife because she did not get what she wanted for Christmas.
"Now St. Nick returns with his magical live dolls to make things right, only he doesn't know what to do," said Chan McQuay, the actress chosen by directors Bill Graham Jr. and Jim Petosa to play the juicy role of Gertrude, the villainess who has obliterated snow and the Yuletide season. How St. Nick resolves his dilemma "makes for great fun," she added.
The 15 musical numbers are performed by a cast of young, non-union professional adults. "It is a colorful show. The kids love it because of the live doll element," said McQuay, who has stacked up an impressive list of professional credits as a musical theater performer in the Baltimore/Washington area. "There is the dancing ballerina, Raggedy Ann, Little Bo Peep, a Crybaby doll, a clown and a soldier," she said.
The actress sings two songs that amusingly depict her characterization -- "I Want What I Want" and "I Hate Fun."
"I wear sinister costumes with high collars, capes and long black skirts," she said. "My hair is very wild with an elevated flat top. ...Gertrude fights to keep old St. Nick out but she becomes nice in the end."
The show was first produced at Catholic University in 1967 where actress Susan Sarandon created the role of the ballerina.
A. Wade Hancock Jr. as the doll maker and Brian McMonagle as the Mayor (both graduates of Catholic University) have worked with the Olney Theatre's touring group, the National Players.
"The touring company [formed by the Catholic University 44 years ago] is comprised of college graduates who perform for high schools and colleges," said Graham. "But both Jim Petosa and I felt we had a hole in our programming. The theatrical experience is an important part of a child's upbringing.
"A series of four theater programs was launched successfully last summer for young audiences by the women of the Acorn Family Project Committee," said Graham.
"We then thought it time to present an annual project that would be inexpensive enough for the entire family to see. Although geared to the children, we wanted it to be enjoyable enough for the adults to have a good time.
"We intend to do one production a year and maybe more," said Graham. "Our next step is to have high school students performing for pre-school and elementary school children. That is our goal. But it is all an experiment," he added.
Performances of "The Dollmaker's Dilemma" are 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays; 11 a.m., 2:30 and 7 p.m. Saturdays; 2:30 and 7 p.m. Sundays. There will be a special matinee at 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 26. (There is no performance on Dec. 25).
Tickets are $10 with discounts available for groups and children age 5 and under. To charge tickets call TicketMaster at 481-6000 or toll-free at (800) 448-9009. For more information call the Olney Theatre Box Office at 924-3400.