Treat yourself to an early Christmas present this year, and buy yourself some tickets to Stratford on Stage's latest production, Nuncrackers.
Reviewing the show in time for opening night, I was expecting chaos, missed lines and room for improvement. Instead it was a fantastically funny, polished and professional performance that was audience ready.
Under the talented direction of Mickie Mills, musical director Donna Drummond and choreographer Harriet Bradley-Archer, the actors bring writer-composer Dan Goggins' script to life and transport the audience to a live studio taping of a television special in the basement of the Mount St. Helen's Convent by the Little Sisters of Hoboken.
While Nuncrackers is one in a series of plays by Dan Goggins to feature this ragtag band of nuns, it stands alone in its own right, and you don't need to have seen the other plays to enjoy this one. Although, I'd hope the team at Stratford on Stage will consider bringing more from this series to The Castle.
Mickie Mills plays Sister Mary Regina, a role which could have been written for her, so well does she step into the (sensible and plain) shoes of the Reverend Mother. Mickie commands the stage whenever she is on it, but never more so than when she sings A Carnival Christmas, with her voice bringing an emotional depth to the song.
Another strong voice on stage is Rubeana Reader's, who plays Sister Mary Hubert. Her gospel-style rendition of "It is better to give than to receive" is one of the many highlights of the show.
Rubeana and Mickie make a great double act and set the standard high for the rest of the cast, who step up to the challenge throughout.
Donna Drummond's portrayal of sister Mary Robert Anne is fantastic throughout, with a powerfully sung All I want for Christmas - (is a one night stand) balancing humour - the one night stand isn't what you think - with a great musical number.
Kelsi Bailey as Sister Mary Paul Amnesia is well cast. Despite her youth, Kelsi is able to demand and keep the audience's attention throughout, and is particularly impressive in the times she interacts with the audience. It takes real skill to play a role which relies on audience participation for some of your lines, and Kelsi manages it well. She also has a great voice shown off with a beautiful and poignant rendition of Santa Ain't Coming to Our House.
Kelsi isn't the youngest cast member however, as there are also five youngsters on stage playing the pupils from Mount Saint Helen's Catholic School who have been asked by the nuns to help with the Christmas show. They are all great actors and do a good job, with particular stand-out vocal performances from Charlie Betts and Ella Coulton. All five of the children have a great stage presence, and play their parts well, with a particularly fun musical number - Santa's Little Teapot, guaranteed to get some laughs.
Father Virgil Manly Trott is played by Stephen Engelbrecht who showed his true professionalism at the rehearsal when, having lost his voice, he still turned up, mouthing all his lines and playing his part well.
Despite being muted, he was still fantastic to watch, especially as his character tried to film a cooking segment of the show. His comedic acting was great, and even silent made for a hysterically funny part of the show.
Dan Goggins creates excellent musical plays, but they need great actors, which thankfully Stratford on Stage has plenty of.
The play is well suited to the small and intimate Castle theatre and the cast are all chosen for their roles.
It's a cracker of a production that you don't want to miss.
Nuncrackers: November 10 - 17. Tickets $25 adults, $15 children. Tickets from the Stratford iSite.