For anyone who feels Christmas is more of a seasonal chore than a joy, Prime Stock Theatre is presenting a musical remedy.
The Red Deer company is reprising The Other Side of the Pole, an enduring musical that’s had several connections with Red Deer. It opens on Thursday, Dec. 14, at Red Deer College’s Welikoklad Event Centre.
Besides being Prime Stock Theatre’s very first production from 1994 that was staged again in 1996, The Other Side of the Pole actually made its premiere-run 35 years ago as a co-production between Edmonton’s Theatre Network and Red Deer College.
Written by former Edmontonian Stephen Heatley, his sister Marney Heatley, and musical composer Edward Connell, the play-within-a-play starts out in Santa’s workshop, where the new elf is told about how Christmas was banned in Split Hoof, Alberta.
Prime Stock’s artistic director, Thomas Usher, said the story features Sandy, an eight-year-old girl, who discovers this mystery called Christmas. Her father, the town’s mayor, had put the brakes on the holiday a decade ago, after the townsfolk of Split Hoof decided Christmas had lost its magic and become nothing more than a commercialized stress-inducer.
“People were getting cranky, they were shopping to excess… it was tearing families apart, so they decided they’d be better off without Christmas,” said Usher.
When Sandy meets Willy, a special needs kid who’s grown up in the foster care system, the two begin sleuthing to discover what Christmas is all about. “Her father tries putting her off the scent, but she’s a very inquisitive eight-year-old, who likes Nancy Drew stories, and is determined to find out,” said Usher.
He believes the six-character production — which involves the talents of local music director Morgan McKee, costume designer Gwen McCagg, as well as Theatre Network sets designed by Daniel vanHeyst — remains popular because it has genuine heart.
While there are many ways to tell the Christmas story, Usher said, “this one gets at the simple, pure message about the holiday: The wonder kids feel, the warmth families share, recollections of the original Christmas family, and the simple things that are important.”
Ian Leung, the guest director from Edmonton, feels the show is about “inclusion, tolerance and a faith or awareness of something bigger than ourselves that’s astonishing and beautiful.”
Usher hopes Central Albertans will laugh, shed a tear, and hum along to The Other Side of the Pole — and rediscover the joy of Christmas. The musical for ages six and up runs to Dec. 23.
Tickets from the Black Knight Ticket Centre.