It might seem like Santa is pulling the strings in a love triangle set on the Toronto stage, but some talented Windsorites are really driving the merry mischief.
The family-friendly Chris, Mrs. — A New Holiday Musical, following the story of a “festiveless” widower and his three children, made its world premiere this month at the Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto.
The director and co-creator, star of the show, and illustrator behind the programs and posters are all from Windsor.
“It’s the mix of your favourite Christmas movies — The Santa Clause meets The Sound of Music,” said Windsor native Katie Kerr, the director and co-creator of Chris, Mrs. “It’s got Hallmark holiday movie shenanigans but mixed with some really exciting dance, all original music and an original story. There are storylines to follow for all ages. You follow the twins’ journey. You follow the teenage romance. You follow the adult romance triangle as well. So it’s got something for everybody.”
The musical tells the tale of Ben Chris, who leverages his late parents’ lodge in exchange for a promotion. The one slight hiccup is that his brother, Charlie, still runs the lodge. So Ben reluctantly packs up his socialite girlfriend and his children — teenager Claire and troublemaking twins Samuel and Samantha — and heads to the lodge in hopes of convincing his brother to sell.
When the twins find a ring in their father’s suitcase, they worry he is going to propose to the girlfriend, who they’re not exactly fans of.
“They forego all their own gifts and write to Santa to ask him to intervene in their dad’s love life,” said Kerr. “When he gets to the lodge, there is an employee at the lodge who seems to be just the answer the kids were looking for. Throughout their time there, Santa does intervene and change the course of everyone’s holiday season.”
The show comes from Boldly Productions, co-founded by Kerr and her husband Matt Stodolak, two lovers of musicals and the holidays. They met while working on Elf: The Musical.
Chris, Mrs. features a cast of 17 Canadian actors including many Stratford Festival, Shaw Festival and Broadway veterans. Among them is star Danielle Wade, who grew up in Windsor.
The creative team also includes Windsor native Kagan McLeod, an artist who did the designs for the show’s programs and posters. His resume includes the illustrated end credits to She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.
All three of the Windsor natives involved in the show are graduates of Walkerville Collegiate Institute.
“It is a callback to how important arts education is and that Walkerville really is a staple in creating and fostering artists to move forward and take professional careers in the arts,” said Kerr.
She and Wade both got their introductions to the world of community theatre with Windsor Light Music Theatre.
After her start in Windsor, Kerr starred as Anne Shirley in several seasons of Anne of Green Gables: The Musical in Charlottetown, and as Sophie in Mamma Mia at theatres across the country.
Wade went on to perform in the Stratford production of The Music Man and Mean Girls on Broadway. She also starred as Dorothy in Andrew Lloyd Weber’s production of The Wizard of Oz at the Ed Mirvish Theatre before taking the role on a North American tour.
Their latest effort, Chris, Mrs., runs until Dec. 31 at The Winter Garden Theatre on Yonge Street in Toronto.
“It’s a very wonderful, joyful way to spend the holidays,” said Kerr. “My family, we’ve shied away from giving physical gifts over the last few years and have instead been gifting events and outings that we all do together. We’re encouraging people to give the gift of live theatre. Spend an afternoon or evening together with your family and come enjoy a full spectacle Hallmark movie on stage.”
Don’t want to miss Chris, Mrs.?
Tickets range from $51 to $138. Family and group discounts are also available.
To buy tickets or see a trailer for the show, go to chrismrs.com.