Christmas in February?
The coronavirus temporarily put the Andria Theatre’s Christmas-themed musical comedy on the shelf, but it’s now set to run the next two weekends, celebrating the holiday season a few months after it passed.
The cast and crew of “Nuncrackers: The Nunsense Christmas Miracle” had completed entire practice run-throughs of the show when they received notice that new COVID-19 restrictions had been released and they’d need to shut down in November.
“That disappointment of I’ve worked so hard for this and then the devastation of maybe this won’t happen,” Carrie Smoley said. “And now back to I get to go out and show everybody what I’ve been working so hard on.”
When she moved to Alexandria four years ago, Smoley said she never imagined she would be one of the performers on the Andria Theatre stage.
She had performed in high school shows, but that was around 20 years ago. Smoley wanted to set an example for her young daughter to put herself out there and try things.
“Even though they may not think you’re good the first time or that they don’t want you to perform, you still have to go out and try it again,” Smoley told her.
And then she made it on the cast list as Sister Mary Paul, also called Amnesia.
Smoley said the biggest difference about performing for dress rehearsal Tuesday night was hearing and watching an active audience respond. She wasn’t just talking to empty seats anymore.
It wasn’t a normal musical preparation. The cast practiced with masks and couldn’t see each other’s faces, so Smoley said it was challenging to hold back her laughter when seeing Reverend Mother’s eccentric expressions during the scenes for the first time.
“I’ve learned so much just coming out of my comfort zone and making my character come alive,” Smoley said.
“Nuncrackers” is a holiday twist on a series of plays called “Nunsense.”
The sisters put on a variety of shows to raise money for the convent. The musical outlines their attempts at their first televised show, which contains a bunch of mishaps that add to the comic relief. The play includes mature themes, and there is some audience participation. Director Ann Hermes summarized “Nuncrackers” in two words: zany musical.
Returning to the spotlight
With the two-month gap between the original December show dates and the currently scheduled February performances, Monica Peterson admitted it was hard to keep all the lines and blocking fresh in her memory.
But when the cast regrouped for practice again in January, she said it was like riding a bike. It made sense as soon as they started pedaling.
Peterson had acted for Minnewaska Showstoppers when she lived in Glenwood, but the last show she performed in was more than 10 years ago. She knew music director Mark Graf, and he told her she should audition.
To prepare for playing her role of Sister Robert Anne, Peterson looked up Brooklyn accent videos on YouTube, watched the films “Saturday Night Fever” and “Moonstruck,” both of which feature main characters in Brooklyn, and rehearsed her lines while walking the dog.
Olivia Reilly’s last performance at the Andria Theatre was in third grade. “Nuncrackers” was the first show since then that has worked in her schedule. Reilly said she enjoys the songs, dances, costume changes and time spent with the other actors.
“It’s great to have that experience and have that community involvement,” Smoley said. “They’re always looking for those individuals that didn’t necessarily think they could do this kind of thing, but that they were able to express that side of their creativity and unspoken talent.”
Health and safety measures
For those planning to attend, masks are required, social distancing is encouraged and seating is set up in pods. Ionization units have also been implemented with the air filtration system.
“This may be one of the safest buildings in our area,” Hermes said.
A staff member goes around the building with a fogging sanitation machine, covering the building from the top floor to the basement and ridding the space of bacteria.
“We really feel that we have systems in place,” said Hermes, who is the executive director of the Andria Theatre. “As much as we’re physically able to guarantee, we will do it for the safety of our patrons and also the actors.”
If you go
When: Feb. 19-20 and 26-27 at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 21 and Feb. 28 at 2 p.m.
Where: Andria Theatre, 618 Broadway St., Alexandria
Tickets: Go to andriatheatre.org or call the box office at 320-762-8300.
Sister Mary Regina (Reverend Mother) – Rachel Barduson
Sister Mary Hubert – Ruth Blom
Sister Robert Anne – Monica Peterson
Sister Mary Paul (Amnesia) – Carrie Smoley
Sister Mary Leo – Cathy Snyder
Father Virgil Manly Trott – David Christman
Jana Kelly – Olivia Reilly
Louise Mayfield – Mia Meier
Briana Wilson – Kylee Dummer
Maria Montini – Emily Staples
Vocal and Music Director – Mark Graf
Director – Ann Hermes
AD/Stage Manager – Cathy Snyder
Choreographer – Robin Lin
Percussionist – Jordan Tacker
Sound – Bryce Galle
Lights – Holly Wallerich
Costumes – Molly Eken
Costume Assistant – BreAnn Neiger
Set Piece Construction – Holly Wallerich
Set Decorating – Donna Magnuson, Holly Wallerich