Friday, December 11, 2015

Stocking Stuffers

Playwrights:  Jenny Maloney & Jessica Weaver

Company:  Springs Ensemble Theatre Company

Venue:  Springs Ensemble Theatre, 1903 E. Cache La Poudre Street, Colorado Springs, CO.

Running Time:  2 hours 5 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission) 

Date of Performance:  Thursday, December 10, 2015. (Opening night, World Premiere)

Although there is not exactly a plot for Stocking Stuffers (it's really 18 different sketches about Christmas), there is one common thread throughout the show.  Three of those sketches (“Dear Santa,” “Strange Menorahs,” and “Impossible Letters”) deal with a military family, separated at the holidays because the father is deployed.  Those three scenes are poignant and perfect for the real meaning of Christmas.

The last of these three scenes (“Impossible Letters”) features John A. Zincone as Santa Claus, trying to make everyone’s Christmas wishes come true.  The costume designer is not credited in the program, but Zincone’s outfit is simultaneously contemporary and traditional.  Dressed in a snazzy grey suit, white shirt, and bright red bowtie, Zincone struts around the stage in shiny red wingtip shoes.  He has a lipstick red watch to make sure he gets his work done on time.  

The impression Zincone gives is a contemporary Santa, dressed to the nines and using an iPad, but anchored in the traditions he has personified for centuries.  But don’t assume that Zincone just looks good on stage (although he does).  He will also touch your heart as he delivers the Santa we hold dear, reuniting the separated family for the holidays.

JillMarie Peterson and Julie Kauppila ("Mele Kalikimaka")
The family reunion aside, though, Stocking Stuffers is much more musical and mischievous than sentimental.  There are a number of Christmas songs (nicely backed up with live music by The Rogues), including “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” and “Santa Claus Got Stuck in my Chimney,” (both featuring Sarah S. Shaver).  Max Ferguson, whose singing voice is divine, adds “The Christmas Song” (“chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”).  Sisters Jillmarie Peterson and Julie Kauppila (both of whom grew up in Hawaii in a military family) do a heartfelt “Mele Kelikimaka.”  The ensemble closes the show with a singalong of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”  If the music doesn’t put you in the Christmas spirit, check your pulse.

In separate sexy tunes, Sarah S. Shaver and Autumn Schubauer vamp their way through some Christmas classics.  Shaver turns up the heat in “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” and if you’re wondering, yes.  It gets hot.  Schubauer rocks “Santa Baby” like she’s auditioning for a strip club gig, teasing the crowd as she slinks and winks her way through what may well be the naughtiest Christmas song ever.
Autumn Schubauer, ready for "Santa Baby."

Schubauer doesn’t just sing and dance.  She also acts, and her showcase “A Very Merry Pinterest” should be a permanent part of her résumé.  If you’re unfamiliar with, check it out.  It’s a photo and info gallery for the crafty crowd.  Schubauer starts by singing its praises, but by the end of her scene she is done with it.  I think the proper adjective here is “intoxicating.”  In the current short hand for comedy, Schubauer is LOL (laugh out loud) and ROFL (roll on the floor laughing) funny.  May all our holidays be this much fun.

Jessica Parnello is hilarious as well as a cat contemplating a Christmas tree.  It doesn't take long for Parnello to set about destroying the enemy, in the most catlike way possible.

The award for the most dramatic scene in Stocking Stuffers is an easy call.  Jonathan Margheim is outstanding in “Perfectly Imperfect,” walking the audience through what could only be described as a most difficult Christmas.  It’s touching, it’s compelling, and one of the many high points in Stocking Stuffers.

There are a few scenes that fall a little short; “A Vagina Monologue” spins a Christmas message from a clinical description of, well, certain lady parts.  Point made, but kid friendly, it’s not.  (At least not for younger kids, who may have a bunch of questions for parents on the way to the parking lot.)  “The Flickers” has a nice local flavor, but it’s a little creepy for Christmas.  

I should also mention that the stage hands are dressed as elves, and both are somewhat torn between their naughty and nice sides.  Crystal Carter is Ginger Snap, and Brianna G. Pilon is Winter the Elf.  Together, they keep the audience entertained while quickly changing set pieces/props between sketches.

The wonder of Stocking Stuffers is not just the fun and poignant Christmas messages it sends.  It’s also a wonder of local talent.  From the creative script to the costumes, the lights, the sounds, the music, the voices, the acting, and the comedy, this is ALL local talent.  They created Stocking Stuffers from whole cloth, for your Christmas pleasure.  The result is a fun, entertaining, and often touching evening of Christmas entertainment. 

Beyond that, though, Stocking Stuffers is also a heartfelt theatrical Christmas card from your friends and neighbors on East Cache La Poudre.  We all know that homemade gifts are the best ones we get, and Stocking Stuffers is exactly that.  A homemade gift to the community, delivered with sincerity, conviction, respect, and love for all of us.


Younger children may not be ready for “A Vagina Monologue,” and other scenes may cause their vocabulary to expand.  F Bomb alert.

Free parking at the door, and free cookies and egg nog (not sure if that was an opening night treat).  Industry night is Monday, December 14.

I don’t often shop for dress shoes, but the next time I do, I want John Zincone to give me some advice.  Seriously.

This show closes on December 19, 2015.

PHOTO CREDITS Springs Ensemble Theatre; photography by Emory John Collinson and John A. Zincone



Producers:  Brianna G. Pilon, Max Ferguson, Emory John Collinson, Jenny Maloney, Matt Radcliffe

Director:  Emory John Collinson

Prop Designer:  Brianna G. Pilon

Sound Designer:  Jonathan Margheim

Lighting Designer:  Jenny Maloney

Stage Manager:  Hannah McCullough


Brooke Ashbridge

Crystal Carter

Gabriel Espinoza-Lira

Max Ferguson

Brandon Foster

Karann Goettsch

Julie Kauppila

Jonathan Margheim

Jessica Parnello

Jillmarie Peterson

Brianna G. Pilon

Autumn Schubauer

Sarah S. Shaver

John A. Zincone


The Rogue Spirits

Concertina, banjo, saw, vocals:  Travis Duncan

Baritone ukelele, guitar, vocals:  Jeremiah Walter

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