‘Christmas at the Old Bull & Bush’ may be a chestnut, but it’s a lovely interlude in a season that doesn’t seem all that joyous to many; set on the eve of WWI, it reminds us that even in horror (all the actors wear paper poppies–a rich and subtle touch), all we have is each other. It is particularly appropriate that in this, the 100th year of the Armistice that ended WWI, that the Old Bull & Bush rise up again to remind us that there is more to life than getting gifts.
. . .this is a joyous, exuberant, silly, affectionate, and just fun way to get into the holiday spirit.
Riotously led by Brian O’Connor as The Chairman and Sherri L. Edelen as Miss Florrie Forde, the cast kicks up their heels with song, dance, a barrage of puns and jokes that are so awful they are groaningly funny. There is also one interlude where The Chairman brings out his “puppet,” well- and slyly-played by Mr. Ramsbottom.
Albert Coia plays Mr. Bertie Ramsbottom (he represents the Cockney classes); Jimmy Mavrikes is a winsome young Mr. Percival Pennyfeather; Katherine Riddle is an equally winsome young Miss Daisy May, and Joseph Walsh rounds out the cast as competent and unflappable Maestro Peabody.
The show is an homage to the music halls of Britain, and the Old Bull and Bush, which was one of England’s most celebrated public houses, in Hampstead, London. The original Miss Florrie Forde popularized “Pack Up Your Troubles” and “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,” marching songs for the young British soldiers in the Great War. Edelen does her justice.
The Great War segment of the evening was particularly poignant in 2018, given that much of the world is still engaged in armed conflict. There was a sort of fervent melancholy when the audience joined in with the singing.
Intermission enabled the audience to buy our Christmas crackers, and stock up on a sausage roll and a libation. They were real Christmas crackers, with paper crowns and equally bad jokes and puns on wee slips of paper. I did, however, receive in mine a miniature ring toss game which has proven fascinating to some of my co-workers.
Overall, this is a joyous, exuberant, silly, affectionate, and just fun way to get into the holiday spirit. The performers are uniformly excellent and they appear to be having as much fun as the audience. It is a delightful frivol and you’ll come out humming.
Running Time: Approximately two hours with one 15-minutes intermission.
Show Information: ‘Christmas at the Old Bull & Bush’ runs from November 29 – December 30, 2018, at Metro Stage, Alexandria, VA. For more information, please click here.