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Christmas comes to town

Presley McClure, left, and Courtney Lawson are busy elves in a scene from Theatre Albany’s production of “The Little Town of Christmas” during rehearsal.

Presley McClure, left, and Courtney Lawson are busy elves in a scene from Theatre Albany’s production of “The Little Town of Christmas” during rehearsal.

'The Little Town of Christmas'

WHAT: Theatre Albany production of the play by Pat Cook

WHERE: Theatre Albany, 514 Pine Ave.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Dec. 6-8, 13-15; 2:30 p.m. Dec. 9, 16

CAST: Robbie Collins, Chet Dreschel, Sam Ferrell, T. A. Gatling, Janna Henderson, Kim Hobbs, Rylan Holman, Stacy Holman, Courtney Lawson, Presley McClure, Keith Peacock, Madalyn Reed, Hannah Sims, Casey Smith, JoAnna Sudduth, Jessica Tabarrok, Gary Unger, Suzanne Unger, and featuring The Shamrocks: Joel Johnson, Dave Hogue, Joe Wingard, Bill Brehand

DIRECTOR: Mark Costello

SET DESIGN: Stephen G. Felmet

TICKETS: $20, adults; $15, seniors; $10, students and active military

SPONSOR: Southern Vitreoretinal Associates

CONTACT: (229) 439-7141 or visit theatrealbany.org

ALBANY — The one word that best describes what life would be like in “The Little Town of Christmas” is lighthearted.

Holiday stories can be deep in drama, often focusing on a family facing a crisis in which the only way out is a Christmas miracle. Dickens, for instance, has his ghosts — a sober lot for the most part — and George Bailey found himself on the brink of desperation. They’re magical stories, but sometimes you just want to kick back and enjoy the Christmas season.

And that’s where “The Little Town of Christmas” comes in.

Not that there isn’t a moral in there. What’s a Christmas tale without one? But the stories are lighter, brighter and just plain fun — a lot of heart without protracted heart-tugging.

Mark Costello, artistic director of Theatre Albany, said last week that the show, which opens its two-week run Thursday night, is “light and entertaining.”

“I try to keep a little variety,” he said, “Hopefully, people will just sit back and bring their kids and enjoy it.”

The play consists of a dozen skits, heavy only in brightness and humor, set in the small community of Christmas. The complications they face are more commonplace than what you often see in a holiday production.

In one, three young boys fret over remembering their lines before going onto the stage as the Three Kings. “It’s what goes on before the play,” Costello observed.

In another, three girls talk about Christmas shopping and end up giving up some of the things they want to help other people.

“That’s the constant theme of it — the charity of the season,” Costello said.

The first skit involves an unexplained sighting above the town on Christmas Eve and a live remote interrupting Christmas Town’s cable access channel. “It incorporates lines from ‘ ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ in what the interviewees say,” Costello said. “One person says, ‘Have you noticed everybody’s speaking in rhyme?’”

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From left, Courtney Lawson, Presley McClure and Hannah Sims play a scene from Theatre Albany’s production of “The Little Town of Christmas.”

Another skit involving two elves is riddled with short jokes, while the choral group battles something Costello, who was having a bout with some severe allergies last week, was all too familiar with. All three choral members are sick, with their hiccupping, wheezing and sneezing “all incorporated into the songs,” he said.

Along the way, Mrs. Santa dives into youngsters’ wish lists, a street Santa gets quizzed by an obnoxious doubting kid, a reindeer goes missing from a park display and a group of women deals with a bit of guilt while drinking coffee and discussing shopping in a restaurant.

Oh, and “A Christmas Carol” does manage to get in — sort of. The Dickens tale is lampooned. Notes Costello: “It’s a real mashing of it.”

The cast includes Robbie Collins, Chet Dreschel, Sam Ferrell, T.A. Gatling, Janna Henderson, Kim Hobbs, Rylan Holman, Stacy Holman, Courtney Lawson, Presley McClure, Keith Peacock, Madalyn Reed, Hannah Sims, Casey Smith, JoAnna Sudduth, Jessica Tabarrok, Gary Unger and Suzanne Unger.

That means the actors will be tackling multiple roles, including several serving as narrators.

One thing that Costello has added — though it sounds more St. Patrick’s Day-ish than Christmasy — is The Shamrocks, a Southwest Georgia barbershop quartet that will sing some Christmas numbers between a couple of the skits. The group includes Joel Johnson, Dave Hogue, Joe Wingard and Bill Brehand.

Costello directs, and the scene design is by Stephen G. Felmet. “The Town of Christmas” was written by Houston playwright Pat Cook. It’s one of 19 Christmas-themed plays he has written.

Performances are set for 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and Dec. 13-15. There are 2:30 p.m. maintee performances on Dec. 9 and 16. Admission is $20, adults; $15, seniors, and $10, students and active military. The box office is available by calling (229) 439-7141.