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Ritz Theatre Company presents World Premiere of "Hollystalk"

originally published: 11/24/2023

Ritz Theatre Company presents World Premiere of "Hollystalk"

(LEFT TO RIGHT) Kacy Hofstetter as Mildred, Lisa Krier as Bo Peep, Jonah Matthew Phillips as Jack, and Lori Aleixo-Howard as Gladys

(HADDON TOWNSHIP, NJ) -- This Christmas, The Ritz Theatre Company presents the world premiere production of its second-ever original holiday panto, Hollystalk (Or, How a Giant of a Mistake Became the Best Christmas Surprise!), a fast-paced and fun-filled musical romp inspired by Great Britain's beloved theatrical tradition of holiday pantomime. The show runs at The Ritz from December 1-17, 2023.

“After [composer and lyricist] Brian Bacon and I found success in creating an original holiday panto two Christmases ago (you may remember The Absolute Fantastical Adventures of Cindy Ella and the Once and Future Golden Christmas Goose in the Joyous Years That Followed the Never-Ending Plague; long title and all), we knew we wanted to try for a repeat performance with a second piece,” explains writer and director Bruce A. Curless. “And so I came up with a basic plot and storyline. Again fashioning our work on the proverbial British panto, I first created my stock characters: The Dame (which is always a drag role), The Juvenile, The Ingénue, The Magic Character, The Villain, The Clown(s), and an animal of some sort. We then decided on what classic fairy tales to have intertwine and clash together. This year we settled on Jack and the Beanstalk and Alice in Wonderland.”

Christmas pantomimes are embedded in British culture and are considered a holiday “must” for many British families. Perhaps best categorized for American audiences as big, boisterous, entertaining musical comedies, the British pantomime genre takes famous children’s fairytales and turns them into shows full of holiday frolics and shenanigans. Although the stories may be classics, the jokes are always contemporary so that they are understood by the modern audience. There are also plenty of innuendos that make the adults giggle, and audience participation regardless of age is greatly encouraged.

“Being a big fan of improv, it makes some sort of sense that my writing style is very improvisational,” says Mr. Curless. “In other words, I start making up a story and then let my little warped brain take it wherever it wants to go. I sometimes go back and doctor things up or twist and turn events and when I finish... well, that’s the story! I shared my story with Brian, and, between the two of us, we decided where there should be a song. In some cases, I had to adjust the dialogue to complement the song, and sometimes I had to change things entirely. Brian’s work is really brilliant! I love his melodies and rhythms and his lyrics are inspired.”

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Like its British forebears (not to mention Cindy Ella...), Hollystalk sets out to be as merry and magical as possible, a true holiday treat for audiences of all ages, with hilarity and hijinks aplenty from start to finish. The production features Matthew Weil as Mrs. G, Steven Brandt as The Bean Seller, Jonah Matthew Phillips as Jack, Lisa Krier as Bo Peep, Jared Iafolla as George the Cow, Lori Aleixo-Howard as Gladys, Kacy Hofstetter as Mildred, Alan Krier as Tweedle Dee, Brian Gensel as And, Yeshua Irizarry as Tweedle Dum, and Amanda Lizzio as The Giant. All are excited to debut this brand-new holiday musical.

“The process of creating a new work continues throughout the entire rehearsal process, using input from the production team and the actors working on the piece,” concludes Mr. Curless. “What you will see is the culmination of all that hard work! We hope you enjoy!”

Written and directed by Bruce A. Curless, Hollystalk has music written Brian Bacon (who also directs the production) with choreography by Kate Orlando. The production team includes Matthew Weil (scenic design ), Jen Donsky (lighting design), Megan Iafolla (costume design), and Lisa Palena (stage manager).

Performances take place Friday, December 1 at 8:00pm; Saturday, December 2 at 8:00pm; Sunday, December 3 at 2:00pm; Wednesday, December 6 at 7:30pm; Friday, December 8 at 8:00pm; Saturday, December 9 at 8:00pm; Sunday, December 10 at 2:00pm; Wednesday, December 13 at 7:30pm; Friday, December 15 at 8:00pm; Saturday, December 16 at 2:00pm (Relaxed Performance) & 8:00pm; and Sunday, December 17 at 2:00pm.

Ritz Theatre Company presents World Premiere of "Hollystalk"

Ticket Prices: General Admission — $30 Groups of 10+ — $20 per ticket Artist/Student Rush — $15. Tickets are available for purchase online, over the phone, and at the box office!

The Ritz Theatre Company is located at 915 White Horse Pike in Haddon Township, New Jersey

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