Lisbon is the backdrop for Stage Left premiere
By Guy D’Astolfo
LISBON — According to Kandace Cleland’s theory of Christmas musicals: Nostalgia + Humor = Perfect Holiday Entertainment.
This equation is the basis for “Jingle My Bell,” a musical she wrote that will premiere this weekend at Trinity Playhouse. It’s a production of Stage Left Players.
“I wrote it this fall, and we are performing it for the first time this December,” said Cleland, who is artistic director at Stage Left.
Lisbon is a town that still wears the charm of a bygone era, and it provides a natural backdrop for “Jingle My Bell.”
The musical is set in 1952 in Dave & Dee Dee’s Diner, a fictional eatery that’s just down the main drag from Steel Trolley Diner, a very real landmark in Lisbon.
References to other local businesses that once existed in Lisbon have also been dropped into the script. “If you’re a local, your ears will perk up,” said Cleland.
Musically, “Jingle” is true to the bouncy bee-bop style of the period (think the vocal harmonizing of the Andrews Sisters).
Jodine Pilmer, music director at Stage Left, reworked holiday favorites, which were given new lyrics. For example, “Mr. Sandman” becomes “Mr. Santa,” and “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” becomes “Don’t Sit Under the Christmas Tree.”
“It’s very upbeat and campy humor, entertainment for the family,” said Cleland. “The songs are in bee-bop style, but not all of them. That would get old.”
The story line is a familiar one. It’s late December. A snowstorm strands a busload of hungry travelers in Dave & Dee Dee’s, which is teetering on the brink of failure. Dave, one of the owners, puts his last dime in the jukebox, and the holiday bee-bop fun begins.
“It’s plain, unadulterated silliness,” said Cleland, who noted, “I had a blast writing this and am having even more fun rehearsing and directing it.”
The set for “Jingle” will be vintage diner, including some authentic Coca-Cola memorabilia.
“It’s a time we’d all like to go back to,” said Cleland. “Not necessarily stay there, but visit.”
The cast of “Jingle My Bell” includes Vince Ward as Dave; Kari Lankford as Dee Dee; Jacob Ward as Corky, their teenage son; Cleland, Allie Dolphin and Ali Cleland as a trio of singing waitresses; Nathan Kuhns as Phil, the Schwebel’s Bread delivery man; John Courter as Bob, the Greyhound bus driver; and Reed Worth as Floyd Knickerbocker, health inspector.
Cleland said she had kicked around the idea for “Jingle” for a long time before writing it. She has penned several children’s musical fairy tales for the stage. A play she wrote, “Where’s Rudolph,” was produced a few years ago by Kent-Trumbull Theater.