From the Gold Dust Orphans, reindeer games and a slice of Freddy Krueger
The Gold Dust Orphans’ holiday extravaganza has become a much-anticipated seasonal treat, but this year’s may be bittersweet. The building containing Machine, the basement club the Gold Dust Orphans have called home for nearly two decades, has been sold to make way for a new one. Although the plans to demolish the Boylston Street block are still in the early stages, Ryan Landry does not yet know when the club will close.
“We’re pulling out all the stops on this show,” says Landry, the Orphans’ founder and artistic director, “because it may be our last holiday musical in this space.”
This year, Landry is lampooning slasher films with “A Nightmare on Elf Street.” “You know me,” Landry says, “Once we choose the title, we have to commit to it, and build the show around it.”
In addition to some creative costuming for the “Freddy Krueger” characters, “Elf Street” presents Santa’s reindeer as high school teens haunted by a vengeful victim who has been wronged by their parents. Of course, Santa’s elves make a pivotal appearance and the reindeer get some help solving the mystery from the “Scooby Doo” detectives, as well as Shirley Holmes and Dr. Jody Watley (Landry and Qya Marie reprising their roles from last year’s “Murder on the Polar Express.”)
“We’ve also mixed it up with the musical selections,” Landry says, “including Ozzy Osbourne and Brenda Lee numbers along with a holiday carol or two.”
“A Nightmare on Elf Street” marks the directorial debut of actress Kiki Samko, who also plays one of the reindeer teens.
“I was lucky to work as an actor on three shows with [longtime Gold Dust Orphans director] Larry Coen and Ryan,” says Samko. “That was like a master class in directing, along with a seminar in the history of theater, the history of cinema, not to mention comic timing. I try to channel that energy.”
This year, in another first, the show opens with a short film that creates the back story for the plotline. Samko says it’s a wonderful introduction for the cinematic feel of the onstage moments, and the dream state that’s central to the “Nightmare” story.
“There are so many elements that have to come together in this show,” she says, “lights, music, props. In addition to making sure things run smoothly and meet Ryan’s vision, a big part of my job as director is making sure the actors feel connected to the internal life of their characters. The action moves fast, and actors need to stay grounded, even when they are playing a reindeer.”
Samko says she also has the advantage of longtime Gold Dust Orphans Windsor Newton and Scott Martino, who collaborated on the set designs, while Martino built and coordinated an endlessly eye-popping array of costumes. A virginal white gown worn by one reindeer may be one of the show’s highlights, as its skirt undulates and expands to reveal a growing number of “Freddys” emerging from underneath.
“I wanted to help project the innocence of the character that becomes menacing as the scene progresses,” Martino says.
Samko says Gold Dust Orphans regulars will recognize some props from shows past that have been incorporated into the three-dimensional collage-like set pieces. “We had to clear out a storage closet we use at Machine for props and chairs and things,” she says. “Windsor and Scott were really creative about working them into the designs.”
Machine has been very good to the Gold Dust Orphans, says Landry, and he is planning a spring show in the space if the doors remain open.
“I’m not ready to retire,” he says, “But at the moment, we have nowhere to go. We’re looking for a nightclub-style place to embrace our company.”
‘Story Beyond’ is ready to be told
It took two years for Liars & Believers artistic director Jason Slavick and the troupe’s ensemble to develop “A Story Beyond: A Musical Fable,” in which a young heroine named Maya goes on a quest to save her storytelling village from the dark cloud that threatens it. Along the way, she learns the power of stories to teach and heal.
“We started talking about how many layers are involved in the stories we tell, and the way those stories create the reality we live in,” says Slavick, who is directing “A Story Beyond.” “The pronouncements about fake news made us wonder about who gets to tell the story, and what it focuses on. What happens when you take the narrative in a positive new direction?”
Slavick and the ensemble began devising a musical — including puppetry and masks — that honors storytelling traditions from around the world, while also giving voice to a storyteller not often heard from: a young girl. The world premiere production runs from Dec. 6-22 at the Boston Center for the Arts Plaza Black Box theater.
The original music by Nathan Leigh blends folk and pop with an Eastern European flavor, says Slavick. A cellist and a mandolinist will join the four actors onstage, one of whom also plays a toy piano.
Slavick says he is particularly proud that the creators of the puppets, costumes, lighting, sets, props, and masks, as well as the producer and co-lead writer are all women. “It’s important that we bring more attention to voices and talent that is too often overlooked,” he says.
“The focus is on female empowerment and the need for empathy,” says Rachel Wiese, who plays a storyteller and served as lead writer with Slavick, “but all four actors play Maya at different points in her journey.”
Wiese says the process has been an adventure in itself. “Over the two-year period, we probably created 20 hours of material that got pared down to the one hour or so of the final show,” she says.
For ticket information, go to www.liarsandbelievers.com.
A trip to ‘Santaland’
Steve Barkhimer takes on David Sedaris’s “Santaland Diaries” for one night only, at Gloucester Stage Company. Barkhimer’s performance Saturday is a benefit for the theater and features the humorist’s adventures as a Macy’s elf in Santaland. Tickets start at $50, and include a reception. Call 978-281-4433 or visit www.gloucesterstage.com.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELF STREET
Presented by the Gold Dust Orphans. At Machine, 1254 Boylston St., Boston, Nov. 29-Dec. 23. Tickets $49-$59, www.brownpapertickets.com