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Hallmark Christmas Parody Next Up at Cumberland Theatre

Hilarious comedy of rom-coms will close 35th Season of Entertainment

The Cumberland Theatre will conclude their 35th season of entertainment with the Christmas comedy “The Holiday Channel Christmas Movie Wonderthon” opening on December 7th and running through December 17th. The show is being sponsored by Mary Splain Shrout with the concession stand being sponsored by Allegany College of Maryland.

Based on a contemporary societal confection of six sugary original Hallmark meets Netflix holidays movies, the show is a fast-paced silly comedy that pokes fun at the holiday rom-coms that serve as everyone’s guilty pleasure during the holiday season. The playwright Don Zolidis - originally from Wisconsin - is one of the most prolific playwrights of contemporary theatre, having scribed 102 plays and staged 12,000 theatrical productions across the United States.

The show is guided by two binge-watching narrators played by Jmonet Hill (last seen at CT in Rock of Ages) and Alex Stompoly, who is making his CT debut. They set the stage for Hopewood Falls, Vermont, during a snowy night when a dozen wayward travelers, all single and alone and, coincidentally, tragically orphaned or widowed on Christmas, to the Evergreen inn, and, naturally, shenanigans ensue.

With a dozen backstories to explain and romances to resolve in two Acts, the action and humor is fast paced and swings from charming to downright creepy—think gas lights to gaslighting—and back. Along the way, runaway princes and frustrated writers get tangled up with Christmas tree farmers and incognito movie stars as they are confront the usual rom-com dilemmas: Can disguises help royalty and/or movie stars find the down-to-earth connections they crave? Will evil city slickers destroy charming inns and/or Christmas tree farms? Isn't it a little creepy for a meet-cute to depend on one person being in a coma? Will they live happily ever after? Or be attacked by wolves in Act 2? And can the sassy red-haired friend played by Savannah Tagliaferro (fresh from last month’s Evil Dead the Musical) keep it all straight?

The proprietor of the Inn, Holly, will be portrayed by Brenna Peerbolt who has been seen on the CT stage this season in Murder on the Orient Express, Perfect Wedding and The Taming of the Shrew. Playing her new “handyman” (who is really a prince!) will be local actor Brian Records who was last seen in A Few Good Men and Evil Dead the Musical. Two passive-aggressive and one-upper-type romance novelists are portrayed by Samantha Kennedy and Shane Lynn. Both were seen in last season’s production of Company.

Seth Thompson returns to the CT stage as the sensitive Christmas tree farmer, Blake, with Kimberli Rowley (the theatre’s Artistic Director) portraying Merry – the big city executive with no time for Christmas who is trying to buy the tree farm and turn it into a golf course. Both were last seen in The Taming of the Shrew and A Few Good Men. Bill Dennison (also last seen in A Few Good Men) portrays dog-owner Jackson, who is knocked into a coma by Carol – played by Tori Weaver (last seen in July’s Escape to Margaritaville).

Also returning to CT are Sean Besecker, Kiersten Gasemy, Pierce Bunch, Amanda Talero and Justice Courrier. Besecker plays Kris – who just can’t be Santa in the parade, despite Noelle (Gasemy) desperately trying to convince him that it is his destiny to follow in his father’s footsteps. Bunch and Talero play royalty – one Hollywood, one…who knows? – who discover love among the chaos in spite of both being hopelessly self-absorbed. Courrier portrays a wide variety of characters in a very short amount of time including an evil real estate developer and the ex-boyfriends of every female character in the show.

The Holiday Channel Christmas Movie Wonderthon is under the direction of Reiner Prochaska. The design team includes CT’s Technical Director Rhett Wolford (set design), Reed Simiele (lighting design), Cody Gilliam (costume design), and Trevor McCabe (prop design). Run crew is comprised of Anthony Tagliaferro (stage manager) and Rowan Dickson (assistant stage manager).

The show plays Thursday – Saturday nights at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm. Tickets are available by calling 301.759.4990 or online at Special VIP “comfy” couch seats are available, which include popcorn, drinks, and other perks. Group rates are available for groups of twenty or more. A complimentary opening reception will be held following the official opening night on Friday, December 8th for no additional charge. On December 15th, the theatre will host a Tito’s Ugly Sweater party beginning at 7:00 pm. Follow the Cumberland Theatre’s Facebook and Instagram pages for upcoming details.

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It's refreshing to see a comedy that pokes fun at the tropes of holiday rom-coms while still embracing their charm. With a talented cast led by Jmonet Hill and Alex Stompoly, audiences are in for a treat. I'm especially intrigued by the fast-paced humor and the mix of charming and creepy elements in the snake game storyline.

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