Since 2012, Stageworks Northwest has usually ended its season with a summer melodrama. This year, artistic director Larry Fox is shaking things up by moving the popular feature to Christmas.
“A Broken Badge Christmas,” a holiday-themed production tailored exclusively for Longview, opens Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“We’re excited to bring a family-friendly melodrama to the community for the holidays,” said director Jamie Hegstad.
Hegstad said Longview audiences have enjoyed the outrageous puns, slapstick comedy, booing, cheering and popcorn-throwing during previous melodramas she has directed. They’ll find all those treats in this one — plus Christmas, Longview, and a bit of old-time radio. Cyndi Deaton wrote additional dialogue and lyrics to make the show more Christmassy, Hegstad said.
Jeremy Snyder plays Justin Credible, a straight-arrow hero in 1896 who “becomes the sheriff by happenstance,” Snyder said. Justin wants to do right, although he doesn’t always know how, Snyder said. He’s kind and innocent and loves Longview, his hometown. He’s “clearly the guy you want to root for.”
Justin loves a comely lass known as Stageworks Sally, played by Emily Sprunger, in her second outing as a sweet young melodrama heroine.
Justin journeys through the whole country before returning to Longview, where “everyone’s happy to meet you,” Snyder said. The town is “good, and he wants to keep it that way.”
(Disclaimer: Although Longview didn’t exist in 1896, Hegstad deadpanned that this is “a completely true tale of the Old West … well, that’s our story and we’re sticking to it.”)
Snyder, who graduated from Mark Morris High School in 2018, said he’s excited to be in his first melodrama.
“I’ve always wanted to do (one),” he said. “I didn’t have time before. I was doing plays at R.A. Long. … (Melodramas are) always so much fun to watch, and they bring out my physical humor.”
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He said his favorite character is the villain, Professor Thaddeaus Mack, played by Tymm Gwayn, who’s giddy at being in his first melodrama and playing his first leading role.
“I’m having a great time. I’m so excited,” Gwayn said.
Mack “has a history of trying to destroy Longview,” he said. “Awhile back he wanted to take all the gold from the depot. This time, he has heard that Longview sits over a very large deposit of crude oil. He’s thinking, if he makes everyone think the town is unsafe, he can buy up the land.”
Justin Credible stands in his way, so Mack schemes to destroy the sheriff’s reputation, Gwayn said. Gwayn also plays Reginald Throckmorton, a radio announcer in scenes set in 1939.
Although Mack is oblivious to it, he’s beloved by Claire Voyant, played by newcomer Laurie Crowston. She grew up in Federal Way, Wash., and performed ballet in the Seattle Opera House. She moved here from Long Beach, where she did shows with the Peninsula Players.
“Claire is very feisty and jaded, and she’s a little sad that she’s jaded,” Crowston said. “She doesn’t want to be alone, but you know the guys who break your heart …” she added with a little sigh.
Claire channels her passion into being the town’s “mother hen,” Crowston said. “She takes care of everybody. She owns the saloon,” and Mack is “under my thumb, but he doesn’t know it.”
This will be the first time she’s done a show where audiences throw popcorn, she said. “It’ll be interesting. I’m excited.”
Others in the cast are Kari Cavaness (Anne Chovy), Jerry Ezell (Joe King), Jewel Ezell (Paige Turner), Jina Ezell (Penny Nichols), Kevin Haddenham (Oliver Sudden), Allen Jones (Avery), Riley Jordan (Amanda), Teresa Kennedy (Betty Diddent), Angela Skaugset (Mayor Jeri Mander) and Mary Lynn Stephenson (Grandma and Penny Sillen). Dorothy McMillan is musical director and plays pianist Trudy Light.
“A Broken Badge Christmas” runs weekends through Dec. 8. There will be two performances on Dec. 7, the day of the downtown Christmas parade: a special matinee at 2 p.m. and the regular evening performance at 7:30 p.m. Stageworks is offering a holiday special of four tickets for $40 at all performances.