If you’re looking for something completely different (nods to Monty Python) this holiday season, take time to see this uproarious original story, Ant’ny Claus: A Dysfunctional Family Christmas, produced by the Academy Players. The character and the play spring from the mind of Rhode Island comic, actor and director Frank O’Donnell. So yes, expect a certain amount of irreverence. It’s all in fun as the play follows the story of Santa’s younger brother, Ant’ny (Anthony), as he waits through yet another Christmas Eve to see if he gets a turn in the big guy’s sleigh.
Bobbi Ricci plays the nervous Ant’ny. His family is like many families “youse” might know here in Rhode Island. There’s the favorite daughter, the beleaguered son and the over-bearing mother-in-law who won’t let anyone leave the house without having some of her delicious food. The visitors include some local broadcasters who just happen to wander in. Each night a special guest appears as part of the cast. Keep an eye out for a local weather, news or sportscaster you might recognize.
You don’t have to be Italian to enjoy the show, but many of the jokes are infused with familiar Italian phrases, and of course, there’s that one older, hard-of-hearing relative who manages to hear everything. Kimberly Harper as Carmella, Ant’ny’s wife, is beautiful and holds her own against myriad crazy characters. Connie Anderson is a scene-stealer as Carmella Senior, who always says what’s on her mind. And there’s a spirited talking reindeer, Bennie Blue Balls (Lynn Nadrowski), who tries to keep Ant’ny up to speed on what’s happening in the North Pole.
Previously produced at Theater Works in Woonsocket, the Academy Players welcomed the show into their new space in Providence near Buttonwoods Golf Course. The character of Ant’ny emerged about 20 years ago to entertain at holiday parties, but became so popular over time that he took on a life of his own. Four years ago, O’Donnell felt there was enough material to craft a two-act play, and so the saga about Santa’s younger brother and his family, Ant’ny Claus: A Dysfunctional Family Christmas was born.
There’s an enthusiastic group of young people who play various parts including a group of carolers who keep coming back to the Claus’s door, again and again. The Academy Players has a strong contingent of young actors who are active in their Stage Door programs. O’Donnell is active in helping many charitable causes. There’s a 50/50 raffle during the show with proceeds benefiting the Stage Door programs. At the top of the show the young people show their singing skill again with a charming intro about the show, written to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
Notfanuttin’ but youse should see dis show. Ant’ny Claus: A Dysfunctional Family Christmas plays through December 13. For tickets or more information call 401-830-0880 or email AcademyPlayers@gmail.com or visit their website at academyplayersri.org. Programs are only available online, as part of their Green Initiative.