Chemainus Theatre Festival’s Christmas offering of ‘Cornwalls’ All-Inclusive Cancun Christmas’ is co-authored by CTF Artistic Director Mark Dumez and Nicolle Natrass, directed by Barbara Tomasic.
It is clear from the outset this will be a comedic family travel holiday story replete with misfortunes, mishaps and misunderstandings. It is also a song fest relying on familiar tunes from popular media, including Christmas favourites. So far, so good.
Along the way, there is some fine song and dance and a few comic bits—the downside of flying on points, the pressure to upgrade the tour package, the barely concealed pregnancy, the multi-coloured mule.
The technical side can always be counted on to provide set design, staging, lighting, sound and costumes in CTF’s tradition of excellence, and it does.
And CTF proved once again its ability to assemble a wonderfully talented cast, seven on the stage and three musicians above it. Of the accompanists, we must salute CTF veteran Nico Rhodes, Music Director, Arranger and Orchestrator, not to mention gifted master of the keyboard.
On stage, David Adams as dad Harry and Marlee Walchuk as mom Judy are great together, lovey dovey on their anniversary. Mack Gordon as rambunctious son Tommy is obsessed with his electric guitar and frantic when it goes missing. Emily Henney is at her comedic best as pregnant daughter Sissy. Alexander Nicoll plays her affectionate husband Kyle.
Outstanding among this fine cast are Alen Dominguez as Fernando, recreation coordinator at the resort, and Andrea Pizarro as Dalila, maid and sometime guitarist and singer in a local band. Dominguez’s haunting rendition of Paloma is a highlight of the show and Pizarro’s unflagging energy and upbeat vibe in dance and song is exceptional. She positively glows.
All these are genuine talents whose challenge is to wring meaning and real emotion from thin material. But is this a happy musical review, a satire, a romance or a commentary on contemporary family life? This is never made clear. At times it seems like a storyline in search of itself.
Apart from the fact the family is far from home, out of its element and out of its depth, there is no consistent guiding theme to keep it all together. Not that we are ever in any doubt the Cornwalls are firmly attached to their Christmas traditions or that they all love one another dearly. But by itself, that is not enough. Instead we are presented with a bewildering sequence of more or less random events, none of which are challenging enough or pursued far enough to engage audience sympathy or attention.
With its 25-year tradition of excellence, Chemainus Theatre Festival has established a high standard of entertainment that theatre-goers have reason to hope will be maintained. This seasonal offering falls short. CTF patrons expect and deserve better.
‘Cornwalls’ All-Inclusive Cancun Christmas’ runs until Sunday, December 31.
Tom Masters is a writer and a resident of Chemainus.