“The Secret Santa”

The Gaslight Theatre’s production of “The Secret Santa” will be presented through Jan. 4.

Someone once asked me what my favorite thing about Gaslight Theatre is.

I asked them how much time they had.

That couldn’t be truer than of the playhouse’s newest comedic gem, “The Secret Santa,” which debuted last week and runs through Jan. 4.

Set in the 1960s, the play revamps the age-old tale of Santa Claus with a modern twist – his sleigh has broken down in the Town of Merryville – but that’s not the real dilemma.

The Cogsworth Toy Factory is under siege by its owner, CC Cogsworth (Brian Hale) and manager, Barkely Simpson (Todd Thompson), who together plot to halt toy production in order to launch a potentially more lucrative lawnmower factory. 

Initially unaware of the devious plan, the spirited toymakers are caught off-guard when they discover management’s true motives, and things look grim for the factory workers and Merryville alike. The potential shutdown could mean Christmas passes by as just another day.

But as fate would have it, St. Nick’s sleigh troubles are a blessing in disguise for Merryville. Regarded by others as a mysterious old toy maker, he and his sidekick elf, Holly (Janee Page), see through Cogsworth’s plans and he teams up with the factory workers to increase toy production and in turn potentially save the factory and Christmas.

This play truly captures the essence of the holidays, not only in its theme of joy before greed, but in its entirety – the costuming, the set pieces, the fake snow, and the familiar holiday lyrics all work together seamlessly to set the mood.

And, much of that mood is successfully accomplished before the curtain is even drawn aside; the Christmas lights strung about the auditorium, the waitresses in holiday gear, the holiday jingles on the piano all contribute to what is to come for the next hour or so.

With each play, it becomes more apparent – no doubt because of the hours upon hours of rehearsal with one another – the extent of the actors’ chemistry on-stage. 

Todd Thompson continues to take on leading roles with ease. His versatility is evident in his ability to play the crowd-pleasing hero or the booed villain, and in the same light, Jake Chapman has continued to emerge as a talented asset to the Gaslight crew. Then, of course, Mike Yarema, with his kookiness continues to be a fan-favorite (By the way, doesn’t he remind you a little of Charlie Day from “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia?”).

Anyway, what makes this play and all Gaslight plays special isn’t the efforts of one or two or three actors, but the union of a cast that is talented through and through, and who truly appears to enjoy what they’re doing on stage. The crew’s ability to have fun up there is infectious to those watching, and in this play the crowd was just as involved and seemingly pleased as ever. 

If you haven’t quite caught the holiday cheer yet, you’ll want to put this one on the top of your to-do list.

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