What better way to get into the Christmas spirit than to spend it on Miserable Spring, Italian style! The Academy Players present A Christmas Carmella, written and directed by Comedian Frank O’Donnell (and co-directed by Shannon Donnelly, also plucked from the audience as Bella) so it’s sure to make you laugh. Dickens would be rolling in his grave if he had to spend Christmas with the Cracciatori’s and Scrugini’s, but you will love this fun holiday play within a play! This time, the kids want Grandma to tell them the story of Scrooge, but Grandma no longer has the book and must shoot the tale from memory… Ooodee!
Paula Faber skillfully portrays Carmella Senior, the matriarch who runs the show. Her comedic timing is spot on as she leads the crew through the various scenes. Also lending on-the-spot uproarious comedic talent is John Morris as Cracciatori. The very funny Ace Aceto appears as Vito/Fuzziwig and others throughout the production, and Christina Myers enthralls us with her various gleeful accents as Carmella Junior and others. With a full cast also lending jocular talent, you’re sure to have flaky fun throughout!
O’Donnell (no relation to me, so he says) is no stranger to the characters as this is an evolving annual performance. “A Christmas Carmella is the third installment in my ANT’NY CLAUS series. It’s been produced twice before. This version is a rewrite, for the first time incorporating many of the characters from the previous shows,” explains O’Donnell. “I love this cast, and the best part of the process has been the collaboration. Many of the bits in the show were not in the original rewrite. Cast members came up with them during rehearsals, and we refined them. Many of the performers are ANT’NY veterans so they’re very familiar with the story and the way I work. I’m very happy with the cast and crew and the way the show has come together.”
There will also be a pre-announced celebrity cameo performer each night, such as ABC 6’s Kelly Bates. On this night the guest of honor was NBC 10’s Mario Hilario. We were treated to (spoiler alert!) Hilarious Hilario’s classic eye pinch maneuver!
Set construction (by Tom Maron) includes a hand-painted living room wall (by Nicole Barone) with windows offering a view of several storefronts along Mineral Spring Ave. in Nort’ Providence. Players move in and out of two doors with a non-distracting homey feel. Lighting by Jaydon Geyer keeps your eye on the action.
Bring the cannoli.
A Christmas Carmella runs through December 11 at the James and Gloria Maron Cultural Arts Center in Providence. For more info, visit: academyplayersri.org.
All photos by Alison O’Donnell