Tilly is having a rough holiday season. Her sister ran off with a guy and left her in sole control of their diner which is in danger of going out of business. She misses her father. She’s lonely and her beau hasn’t proposed to her. And her Christmas Extravaganza talent show is lacking star power and talent. Will her apprentice guardian angel be able to help her find her Christmas spirit? Find out by watching Tilly’s Holiday Extravaganza currently performing at Harold’s Koffee House under the auspices of 2×4 Planck Productions.
For full disclosure, the show’s playwright, Doug Marr, was a friend of mine and I performed in several of his original works so I have a good feeling for his style of writing. This show definitely has the feel of an early work (it hasn’t been performed for 30 years) and seemed like a tale of two plays. The first act needed a bit of polish. It sets up Tilly’s woes and introduces Novice Betty whose “help” just seems to make things worse and then she vanishes and Tilly’s day just goes from bad to worse with various mishaps. Act II jumps ahead to Christmas Eve and the extravaganza and is a much stronger act centering on the, ahem, “talent show” and the turn things take when a pair of strangers arrive at the café before everything gets wrapped up in a bow (Christmas pun intended).
Though it has some weaknesses, Doug’s love of Christmas and nostalgia are palpable and the play does feature some of his hallmarks. Witty one-liners. Ridiculous situations. Frenemy characters. And the energy of his family and friends who came together to produce this show definitely boost the production.
Lorie Obradovich does a laudable job of directing this play and does a very strong job of staging the actors, though there are points where the actors are out of the view of some patrons depending on where they’re seated in the diner. Her coaching is quite solid as she really got her actors to embrace the silliness of their characters and just have some fun.
Some amusing performances come from Mike Downey as a dumb as a brick mechanic whose angry singing of “Frosty the Snowman” to the tune of “The Little Drummer Boy” is the play’s highlight; Dylan Marr and Elizabeth Planck make for a cute newlywed couple with an enjoyable pair of bad songs; Rob Baker brings some smiles as a never will be singer whose act is more lounge lizard than Sinatra; Ann Downey serves as a capable “straight man” to her goofball husband; Daniel Baye supplies some yuks as a befuddled thief; Wes Clowers has a nice everyman quality as Tilly’s boyfriend, Dale.
Rose Glock is an absolute delight in the dual roles of Novice Betty and Marlene. As Novice Betty, apprentice guardian angel, Glock summons the spirit of Jean Stapleton’s Edith Bunker with the Queens accent and her good hearted ditziness. As Marlene, Glock comes off as a mannish Lucy Van Pelt. She’s crabby and she’s the boss (especially with her dominance of her brother, Pee Wee) and few are the people she can stand (and probably vice versa) for more than 5 minutes.
Laura Marr shines as the titular Tilly. There’s definitely a flavor of Vicki Lawrence’s Mama character in her performance. Marr’s Tilly is, more or less, the level headed leader of this neurotic group. She never seems short of a snarky one liner, has a real take charge attitude, and can deliver extemporaneous, subtle sarcasm like a champ. Still, she has a good heart and you genuinely want her to find her Christmas cheer.
The costumes supplied by Laura Marr, Paula Clowers, Robyn Baker are well done, indeed. Most enjoyable were Tilly’s waitress outfit and poofy wig, Murray’s ugly as sin “tuxedo”, the coveralls for the mechanics, and Novice Betty’s flapper outfit. There’s even a few clever light tricks from the director and cast as flickering lights (both regular and Christmas) abound whenever divine intervention is afoot.
It’s a sweet show for the holiday season and a worthy tribute to the late Doug Marr. Come for the show. Come for the pie. Come for some Christmas cheer.
Tilly’s Holiday Extravaganza plays at Harold’s Koffee House through Dec 21. Showtimes are 7:30pm Thurs-Sat (Dec 21 is a special added Tuesday show). Tickets cost $18 for the show and $25 for show, pie, and coffee or soft drink. Harold’s Koffee House is located at 8327 N 30th St in Omaha, NE.