Theatre review: Christmas Queen is a perfect holiday treat

There was so much energy emanating  from the Vancouver TheatreSports Improv Centre last night it could have created its own supernova and none of us would have been surprised had three wise guys shown up looking for a child in a manger.

In Christmas Queen: Improv Comedy Fairytale, the Vancouver TheatreSports League creates an improvised Christmas story based on suggestions from the audience and the imaginations of the actors on stage.  A new show each night based on those random ideas, the common thread for each performance is the evil Queen bent on ruining Christmas.

What makes Christmas Queen different from some of the other Vancouver TheatreSports League improv shows is in the seamless weaving of the TheatresSports games throughout the 90 minute show.  In Christmas Queen the action rarely stopped, as it can with a more traditional presentation of the games, allowing for a more fluid story to be developed.

Leading the way opening night was audience and cast wrangler Michael Teigen in the role of host and narrator.  Teigen had such a boundless energy that he could have easily created his own galaxy from the heat generated from his thighs rubbing together in his polyester elf costume.  Ensuring the action never lagged, Teigen helped both audience and cast keep focused on propelling the story forward as he sought suggestions and set-up the action for the players.

Feeding off Teigen’s infectious enthusiasm, the cast on opening night was spot-on.  Show co-creators Brian Anderson and Denise Jones both flexed their own improv muscles with Anderson giving a hilarious performance in drag as the Queen and Jones proving that even a Christmas tree can be funny.  Andrew Barber, Graeme Duffy, Jeff Gladstone and Scott Patey rounded out the talented group of improvisers on opening night.

The Vancouver TheatreSports League presents Christmas Queen: Improv Comedy Fairytale through December 21, 2013.

The Vancouver TheatreSports League presents Christmas Queen: Improv Comedy Fairytale through December 21, 2013.

While largely successful, with improv there is always a risk that things will go awry and opening night was no exception.  Even Teigen’s best efforts to help steer things away from disaster couldn’t help an extended scene that involved an evil plan and dead cats.  Fortunately this talented cast didn’t let things get off the rails for too long.

Despite that momentary lull, I haven’t enjoyed and laughed so hard at a Vancouver TheatreSports show since last year’s ground-breaking Dragons’ Improv Tank.  And while the cast on opening night may be different from the one you might experience, my Christmas wish for you is that the performance you attend will be just as full of boundless energy and laughs.

Whether you’re a fan of the holiday season or not the Vancouver Theatresports League Christmas Queen is the perfect holiday treat to get you in the spirit … or perhaps just help you get through it.

Christmas Queen: Improv Comedy Fairytale

Concept and format by Denise Jones and Brian Anderson. A Vancouver TheatreSports League production.  On stage at the Granville Island Improv Centre through December 21, 2013.  Visit http://www.vtsl.com for tickets and information.

Mark Robins on Google+

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