Vancouver TheatreSports presents its annual Christmas production in hopes of rekindling the true meaning of the holiday
Justin Scott // Managing Editor
With Christmas season now in full swing, it’s easy to get caught up in the stress of it all and forget to enjoy the blissful time of year – something that Vancouver TheatreSports (VTS) is very mindful of. The production company’s fourth annual Christmas Queen show has returned, under this year’s title of Secret Santa, and it’s everything one can ask of a Christmas production, with the added laughter of improv comedy. Running Wednesdays through Saturdays, with a few other days scheduled throughout the month, Christmas Queen 4 – Secret Santa will be playing until Dec. 23 at the VTS theatre on Granville Island.
Of course, the show is never the same. Although Secret Santa forgoes many of the usual theatre sport tools used in VTS productions, like improv games, it is still full of improvised fun. Santa’s elves for example, who were named Roxy, Cobalt and Ivanhoe (think about it) on opening night, but will have their names changed for each performance, received their jobs from audience suggestions. Roxy for example, ended up being the head of business development in the North Pole, which led to many moments of hilarity. And although the format of Christmas Queen may be a bit unfamiliar compared to many of the other VTS productions, it’s not just entertaining for the audience, it excites the players as well. “It’s kind of thrilling,” said VTS Co-Artistic Associate Bill Pozzobon. For him, branching away from the typical theatre sports format actually allows for more improvisation. “When we get the opportunity to let go of a format, and where we really do have to improvise without the safety net of a game or the format of a theatre sports show, we really get to make the show up as it goes along, it’s pretty thrilling.”
For the past three years, VTS has prepared its seasonal offering around a central character, the Christmas Queen. While she may sound like an ambassador of good tidings, the Queen is just the opposite. A true Scrooge, she is not only disdainful towards the winter celebrations, but she does her best to foil them all together. “She’s so brassy and fun, and there’s so much leeway that she has. People give her permission to be awful, it’s so fun,” Pozzobon said of the character. “She gets to say all those awful things that kind of sit in the back of our heads, and we think, ‘oh I can’t say that in public,’ then she comes out and says them.”
Christmas Queen 4 – Secret Santa sees the Queen plan what is perhaps her most diabolical plot yet, when she attempts to swap bodies with everyone’s favourite bearded, red and white suit wearing gift giver, Santa Clause. Throughout the process of her plan, however, the audience and Santa learn something very unexpected about the Queen that explains much of her sinister behaviour.
However, according to Pozzobon, this year’s production is about far more than just the Queen’s latest attempt to leave the base of Christmas trees barren – it’s an attempt to revisit what Christmas is all about. “It’s not about the gift that Santa gives, it’s not about the things, it’s about coming back around the spirit of what Christmas is supposed to be about,” he said. “However one perceives the holidays, whatever one’s particular faith or experiences may be, coming into this show, we don’t want people leaving with an idea that it’s about getting more presents, it’s about how do you connect people and how do you get past the things in the way of that connection.”
This year’s production can’t be missed. Whether it’s a romantic date night or an office party, Secret Santa embodies what this season should be, bringing smiles to the faces of each and every audience member. Although this year’s production wraps up on Christmas Eve, VTS has big plans for the new year, inviting theatre-lovers to add the production company’s gift certificate to their holiday wish list.
Gift giving aside, Christmas Queen 4 – Secret Santa is an experience. “When people leave, they don’t leave with a thing, there’s no tangible object, they’ve come to our theatre to have an experience and they leave with a feeling,” Pozzobon said. “That kind of mindset plays into, on some level, everything we do, we want people to leave with a feeling, an experience, a memory.”
Tickets for Christmas Queen 4 – Secret Santa are available at www.vtsl.com/ and range from $10.75 to $31