Follies deck the halls with ‘Totally Twisted Tinsel’

A Review of the 2017 Holly Jolly Follies

What with Russian hacking, North Korean missiles, hurricanes galore, accusations of misbehavior, and the Tweet wars, we could really use a little Christmas.

Hang on to your Santa hats! Florence has the cure for the glum and gloomy this weekend, Dec. 1, 2 and 3, at the Florence Events Center with the 2017 Holly Jolly Follies. So gather the Grinch, Scrooge and the Griswold Family to hoist a cup of kindness as your friends, neighbors band local celebrities take the stage to sing, dance and act in seasonal splendor.

Florence’s longtime holiday variety show is for the second time engineered and fine-tuned by the incomparable theatrical team of Ellen and Mike Jacobson and their daughter Melanie Heard. Ellen, a Rose by any other name, wrote the script; Mike reprises his role as Amarillo Snowden, an aging Latin dance master tripping the light fantastic on cruise ships; and Melanie directs, keeping about 85 ducks and CROWs in a row for a delightful two-hour romp.

The show is titled “Totally Twisted Tinsel: The True Meaning of Christmas,” a meaning masked by an alliterative title that suggests felony and mayhem; sometimes you have to hack through the jungle to appreciate the goodness at the end of the rainbow.

The plot’s premise is an audition for Florence’s holiday show, featuring a wealth of local talent. At the end of the actual show, the producers declare a spectacular audition!

Subplots include friction between the show within the show’s producers, buxom blonde Dolly Dinkle (Genevieve Meltzer) and Amarillo Snowden glittering in gold lamé. Do the rivals resolve their differences?

That would be telling.

Another subplot includes Santa’s elves sent to Florence to bring back the holiday spirit when Santa hears that someone has stolen the show’s costumes and a teacher (Kristen Owens) singing to her letter-writing students asks for a “Box of Rocks” for her brother. Santa is disturbed by the lack of civility.

The tall elf in the sparkly white suit is Elfis (Ned Hickson, Siuslaw News editor making a Follies’ return). Elfis and Elvis (Wayne Sharpe of KCST Radio) square off with a swiveling duet. The elves gin up some cheer with parents and children under a Bay Street sign set against a stunning small town backdrop. Santa himself (Dorland Neale) makes a jolly appearance to ensure the magic stays in Florence “Where the River meets the Sea,” and a good time is had by all.

But that doesn’t begin to describe the joyful noises of the singers, actors and dancers. Exceptional vocalists include mother and daughter Marijo and Nyah Vollmar, Denise Dee, Wendy Krause, April Miller, Melanie Heard, and Sabrina Heard, Melanie’s beautiful and precocious four-year-old. Another vocalist could be Dolly’s cousin if we didn’t already know her as the singular Fanny Rugburn (Jason Wood), a “Santa Baby” scene stealer if ever there was one.

As for actors, David Lauria of Class Act Theatre plays a Chicago mobster retired to Florence with Lola (Tamara Szalewski) who gets whatever she wants. Jake Molano, Gomez in “The Addams Family” and multiple characters in “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” plays multiple characters including an Italian costume designer, a parent, a cowboy and a guitarist.

Dancers are plentiful and diverse including tap, hip hop, line, chair tap (Peggy Smith) and ballet. Tinsel Fairies (Thelma Genry and Angela Palmer) dance as if they’d stepped out of “The Nutcracker.” Perhaps the most striking choreography is CROW’s “Flight” Dance Team making its debut and soaring with elegance.

The Cowboys return, still not having found the cows and still full of beans, blowing eructating harmony.

Leapin’ Lizards! Remember the stolen costumes? The thief turns out to be Mr. Rex, a large, lovable reptile whose first name has to be Tyrannosaurus.

There ends the folly of “Totally Twisted Tinsel,” a totally enchanting tale of community kindness, a sweet holiday story that trumps the news of the world today.

Show times are Friday, Dec. 1 and Saturday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m., with a matinee on Sunday, Dec. 3 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at the FEC box office or by calling 541-997-1994.