REVIEW: “Every Christmas Story Ever Told” Packs the Laughs at CSC

By Liz Eichler, LCT Stage Insights Chair

While there are a lot of holiday options in Cincinnati, nothing tops the laughs per minute as CSC’s Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some). This is a show geared for adults (finally!). Whether you are beginning your night out on the town or topping off your dinner on Vine, this is a perfect way to add holiday cheer. 

Colleen Dougherty in “Every Christmas Story Ever Told ( And Then Some!)” by Michael Carleton, James Fitzgerald, and John K. Alvarez, directed by Jeremy Dubin playing Dec. 7-30, 2023 at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.
Colleen Dougherty in “Every Christmas Story Ever Told ( And Then Some!)” by Michael Carleton, James Fitzgerald, and John K. Alvarez, directed by Jeremy Dubin playing Dec. 7-30, 2023 at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. Photo by Mikki Schaffner.

The Premise of Every Christmas Story Ever Told

The premise: three theatre friends gather to rehearse A Christmas Carol, because…tradition. But two resist because everybody does A Christmas Carol. (A running joke is how they didn’t get cast in the new one at the park down the road.) So instead they present…other Beloved Holiday Classics (BHC’s). From one-line references (A Christmas Story, Home Alone, etc.) or full enactments (Grinch, Charlie Brown, Rudolph, etc.) the first act flies by punctuated by audience participation. Act Two is an amazing mashup between A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life, which will leave you in awe of the actors abilities to switch cleanly between characters. 

Geoffrey Warren Barnes II in “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)” by Michael Carleton, James Fitzgerald, and John K. Alvarez, directed by Jeremy Dubin playing Dec. 7-30, 2023 at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.
Geoffrey Warren Barnes II in “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)” by Michael Carleton, James Fitzgerald, and John K. Alvarez, directed by Jeremy Dubin playing Dec. 7-30, 2023 at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. Photo by Mikki Schaffner.

The Performers

Candice Handy, Cary Davenport and Geoffrey Warren  Barnes II are the three actors.  Framing this is “Drunk Gen-Z Santa” played by Colleen Dougherty, who comes with all the Gen-Z feels and jargon. The four have amazing energy and chemistry and can lift the spirits of even the scroogiest scrooge.  Hardy’s Grinch is hysterical, her grinchy dis on the Bengals is bruuuuutal. Davenport is the main goofball, who does a great Clarence the angel. Barnes, playing the leading man type, also switches quickly between roles–and pops up, almost in two places at once! Dougherty leans into the tropes, and sleighs…literally. 

Cast members of “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)” by Michael Carleton, James Fitzgerald, and John K. Alvarez, directed by Jeremy Dubin playing Dec. 7-30, 2023 at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. Photo by Mikki Schaffner.

The Creative Team for Every Christmas Story Ever Told

The CSC lobby is beautifully decorated as is Justin N. Locke’s set. Rainy Edwards costumes are fun, fitting and festive, and Chris Halloway’s lights keep things bright. The audience has some fun with the pre-show music (Robert Carlton Stimmel) which could be a game of its own, trying to identify songs by John Denver, Nancy Wilson, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and way more. Written by Michael Carleton, James Fitzgerald, and John K. Alvarez, but updated annually, director Jeremy Dubin keeps things current and lively.

Bottom Line

If you are looking for a cathartic evening of laughter at the end of a semester, quarter–or because you weren’t cast in another show–this is a great time. Great for a crowd so you and your whole office can get decked out in your holiday sweaters, suits or re-wear your Taylor Swift or Beyonce sparkles.

Get Tickets for Two or Bring a Group

The music is on, the lights are twinkling, the bar is open and stocked with some local seasonal favorites, as well as a signature drink (with or without alcohol) and hot cocoa. Tickets are going fast! The show runs weekends and some weeknights Dec. 7-30, 2023 as well as a few 2:00 matinees. Playing at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, The Otto M. Budig Theater, 1195 Elm Street Cincinnati, OH 45202. Get your tickets at cincyshakes.com . This show is perfect for groups, so call the box office ASAP at 513-381-2273 (BARD) if you’re still looking for an office shindig.

Candice Handy of “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)” by Michael Carleton, James Fitzgerald, and John K. Alvarez, directed by Jeremy Dubin playing Dec. 7-30, 2023 at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. Photo by Mikki Schaffner.

NOTE: CSC is collecting donations for Lydia’s House supporting housing for women and children in crisis. They have bins to drop off household cleaning supplies, blankets, coloring books for kids, and other items.

Up Next at CSC

Opening January 26, 2024 will be The Amen Corner by James Baldwin. “In a small, God-fearing church on a street corner in Harlem, devout pastor Margaret Anderson is confronted with her complicated past.  Her estranged husband returns provoking conflict in her family putting their son at a crossroads.  Will Margaret find forgiveness? Will the congregation accept the complexities of life? Or will both remain unyielding in their religious convictions?  James Baldwin’s scalding and exultant masterpiece of the modern American theatre, proves it is faith and the love we have for our community that sees us through.”