Ten-gallon laughs at 'A Tuna Christmas'

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By Sara Miller

Looking for a new theater experience this holiday season? Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden has a holiday show that is sure to be the quirkiest you’ve seen in years. Opening on Nov. 16, “A Tuna Christmas” will add a little taste of Texas to your holiday celebrations.

“A Tuna Christmas” takes place in Tuna, the “third smallest town” in Texas. The show is a sequel to the 1980s hit “Greater Tuna,” written by a trio of playwrights in Austin, Texas. After much acclaim for the original show, the group reunited to write this Tony Award-winning story of Christmas in rural America.

The action revolves around the town’s annual Christmas Yard Display Contest. This year, Tuna’s citizens are set on unmasking a Christmas Phantom who is desecrating yard displays and learning whether the town treasurer, Dixie Dewberry, will succeed in pulling the plug on a production of “A Christmas Carol” because the Little Theater hasn’t paid its light bill.

In a dizzying series of costume changes, two actors portray all 22 citizens of Tuna — men, women, children and animals. Veteran actors Wade Livingston and Jim Whiteman have undertaken this theatrical challenge.

“Wade and Jim are both very talented men with extensive backgrounds in theater. More importantly, they are both so funny in these parts. To see both of them switch between all of these characters and keep the costumes straight is hilarious,” says director Nita Froelich.

Some of these unique characters include Thurston Wheelis and Arles Struvie, announcers at radio station OKKK, the lovable Aunt Pearl and smut-hating socialite Vera Carp. Inita Goodwin and Helen Bedd are good-time girls who waitress at the Tasty-Creme restaurant. Elmer Watkins was the victim of a tragic flameshooter incident that left him without eyebrows. Didi Snavely owns Didi’s Used Weapons, whose motto is, “If we can’t kill it, it’s immortal.”

These colorful characters are as varied as any group you’ll find in a small town. “Chances are that you’ll see some characters up there who remind you of someone that you know. Maybe even some who come from your own family tree,” says Froelich.

During her years in the theater, Froelich has probably crossed paths with a plethora of personalities upon which to base the Tuna characters. Froelich has acted, directed and produced at the Arvada Center, Town Hall Arts Center, Country Dinner Playhouse and Victorian Playhouse.

In 2000, she directed “Something’s Afoot” for the Evergreen Players, and “A Tuna Christmas” will be her fourth production with Miners Alley.

“This play has been great fun,” says Froelich. “Bring the family out. Everyone will find something to laugh at. And, hopefully, if there are any Texans in the audience, they will laugh too.”