The Spirit of Christmas and Love were alive in Charleston with ‘Dylan Thomas’ Christmas in Wales’

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By Mark A. Leon

The setting was Christmas Eve 1923 in Wales and Dylan Thomas,accompanied by members of the Chamber orchestra (Chamber Music Charleston),shared stories and songs of the holiday season. At least when we suspended our reality for two brief hours at the North Charleston Coliseum this past Thursday, it felt that way.

As violinist Jenny Blickensderfer Weiss, flutist Regina HelcherYost and cello player Timothy O’Malley took to the stage of a transformed traditional early 20th century home and began to play harmonies of the holidays,Dylan Thomas, played with wit, charm and a whimsical tone by Clarence Felder waited patiently stage right.

The home was garnished with a lavish Christmas tree, coat rake, a small Tiffany lamp and comfortable chairs ordained with shawls made with love from generations past.  The setting of a comforting winter snow outside and a warm fireplace set the tone for an evening of reminiscing and reflection.

As the chamber transitioned into a poignant instrumental of ‘Silent Night’, Chris Weatherhead, actress, producer, writer and soul fated love of Clarence, took my arm, leaned in and whispered in my ear, “I’m in love with that man over there.”

I smiled, closed my eyes for a moment and felt the spirit of Christmas race through my body.

For the next 45 minutes Dylan Thomas brought us all back to a period of childhood filled with innocence, joy, love and a little mischief.  From candy cigarettes, to rum filled Aunts,silly gifts to odd animals.  It was a pleasant escape filled with poetic verse, lovely Christmas tunes and a warmth that can only come from the purest of hearts.

The Actors’ Theatre of South Carolina staged this one of a kind performance of ‘Dylan Thomas’ Christmas in Wales: Dinner and Live Performance’ to a sold out audience of almost 200.  From the youngest of children to the young at heart, you could see patrons smile and even sing so softly to the tunes they all knew and loved.

There is a personal piece of one’s self that goes into live theatre.  For a short period of team an actor lets themselves be exposed for the greater good of filing a room with relatable and penetrating moments of self-reflection. It is that vulnerability that is the power of theatre and the gift this company has given to Charleston.

In the end though, it was the one sentence from lips to ear, expressing a lifetime of love that truly reminded me of the importance of Christmas, family and most of all, love.

Learn more about the Actors’ Theatre of South Carolina 

Evil Dead: The Musical – A Raunchy Comical Horrorfest

By Mark A. Leon / Edited by Minta Pavliscsak

“Evil Dead: The Musical” is a hauntingly beautiful evil comedy packed with silly madness that will fulfill your need for a Halloween scare.

Set in a misty dark foggy night deep in the heart of the forest, five broke and horny teenagers find their way to an abandoned cabin in the woods where the only thing standing in their way from a perfect spring break is an explosion of demons comedically unleashed via stumbling across The Book of Dead and recordings of passages from its pages.? What follows next is blood, mayhem and sheer lunacy.

Enter Ash, his sister Cheryl, his S-Mart love Linda, fowl mouthed best friend Scott and Scott’s three-day old fast fling Shelly.? Now sit back and enjoy one of the most exhilarating evenings this holiday season.

Based on the book and lyrics of George Reinblatt, the carefully crafted stage direction of Kyle Barnette and the wickedly enchanting cast, What if? Productions and Threshold Repertory take you on a journey combining legendary elements of Grease, Rocky Horror Picture Show and the campy B-Movie essence of Tromaville, the hometown of Toxic Avenger.

The opening number, “Cabin in the Woods” is reminiscent of any great road trip and is soon followed by romantic duet of “Housewares Employee” by Ash and Linda that is so utterly romantic, it will make you think twice about the “no love in the workplace” rule by the time it is over.

After two hours of show stopping numbers, wise cracks and horny banter, you will be treated to a blood soaked Thrilleresque conclusion filled with dancing, ancient chants, a Boomstick and a hair-raising chainsaw hand.

The devil truly has a sense of humor and he blessed us with Evil Dead:? The Musical

As the story unfolds, demons manifest themselves in the bodies of our cast, who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.? The first possessed is Ash’s sister Cheryl, played remarkably by Kelly McDavid.? As the demon locks itself deep in the underbelly, taking over Cheryl’s body, she transforms from a paranoid book worm, to a witty, pun induced laugh track leading the audience into an explosion of excitement with every well-timed line.

A show stopping moment occurs with the introduction of Jake, played by James Ketelaar who transforms his character into a rugged redneck bumpkin whose confidence soon turns into fear. He makes his character lovable with his breakout performance of “Good Old Reliable Jake”, which puts the crowd in a frenzy of extended applause.

Cameron Christensen, as Ash is played with confidence, charm and visual expressiveness.? His complete and uninhibited adaptation into this world of demonic musical silliness provided a prominent presence that inspired.? His energy fueled the remaining members of the troop as they took us down a path to the unknown forces of the dead.

Throw in a talking moose head, dancing beaver, pain in the ass hand, talking head, flying intestines, an audience splash zone and you have a night of entertainment, you will surely not forget.

Late in Act I we are introduced to Ed and Annie.? Ed is only a bit part demon; the extra that is soon forgotten, but don’t feel bad, he will get his moment to shine, sort of.? Annie (who may resemble Shelly), played by Bess Lawson, is the daughter of the professor who initially discovers the Book of the Dead.? Her appetite to steal the spotlight in every scene, makes her an unlikely hero in this story.? But then again, when you are dealing with demonic forces, anything can happen.

Throughout the performance, the actors play fun at the formula of horror movies and without even realizing, make us all a part of the performance.? It is a tactic to engage while still poking fun at the genre to enhance the comedic element.

“Evil Dead” is a raunchy, witty, playful and outrageous evening of sheer fun and a must see during this holiday season, or any season.? Spoiler:? Once you see the musical number “What the Fuck Was That?” choreographed to the tango between Scott and Ash, I think you will understand just what we mean.

A truly great production is a team effort from set design to props; casting to rehearsal; script to music; timing to confidence.? “Evil Dead” is an uninhibited and enthralling theatrical symbiosis.? This production brings all these elements together in a complete experience.

Come to Threshold to experience a remarkable show that will turn your world inside out.? Play along with the banter and get absorbed into a world where demons can be fun too, even if they want to steal your soul and kill you.

Ticket Information – Evil Dead: The Musical