The Lyric Theater hit a homerun when the stage version of “The Beverly Hillbillies” was presented in February. Following in that folksy down-home vein, “A Tuna Christmas” opens tonight for eight shows over two weekends. It promises to be something that strikes the same funny bone.
After the Lyric announced it would bring “A Tuna Christmas” to Brownwood, people had similar questions. “What touring company is doing this?” “Will the actors be the original co-authors?” And, “How do I get tickets?”
The answers are that the actors cast are two talented Lyric Theatre regulars local audiences have enjoyed in previous shows. They are, in alphabetical order, Austin Bynum and Jonathan Harvey. True to the original production, “A Tuna Christmas” comes to Brownwood featuring only two actors to portray 22 different characters, so the costume-change logistics are as much a part of the show as the side-splitting comedy. Not every production of “A Christmas Tuna” is this faithful to the concept. Some cast many people to handle the various roles.
An Austin production just completed a sold-out 30-show run on Sunday, and it’s become a popular Christmas tradition not only for Austin theaters, but also for venues throughout Texas for decades.
I haven’t been to any rehearsals of the Lyric show as of this writing, but I have no apprehension in going out on a limb and recommending that you see it. The show opens at 7:30 tonight. So, the answer to the third question posed above, the one about getting tickets, is to go online at www.brownwoodlyrictheatre.com.
It should be apparent that this is not an easy show to produce. With only two actors in the cast, one or both of them are on stage for most of the production. First, there’s the matter of learning all the lines. Then, the challenge of rapid costume changes is equal to the need for those actors to shift their entire personalities within seconds. There is no time to contemplate the personae. Take too much time doing that, and the cue for the next character to race onstage might be missed.
The comedy is definitely enhanced by the theatrical whirlwind of entrances, exits, and miraculous costume changes.
Runs of “A Tuna Christmas” have proven to be a favorite of audiences wherever it’s been staged, but especially in Texas where we’re apt to recognize many of the show’s characters from real life. This plot summary gives you the background:
“It’s Yuletide season in itty bitty Tuna, the third smallest town in Texas where the Lion’s Club is too liberal and Patsy Cline never dies. Between the holiday yard display contest and the Little Theatre’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ on the brink of cancellation, it’s a miracle anyone gets tinsel on a tree… This satirical ode to the season is spiked with enough sass and shenanigans to make for one Texas-sized jolly holiday.”
“A Tuna Christmas” is one of four comedies written by Austin legends Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard. The shows toured until 2012 when Sears retired from the troupe. Typically, Williams and Sears played the roles, with Howard directing.
In 1981, “Greater Tuna” introduced the world to the third-smallest town in Texas, named Tuna. “A Tuna Christmas” made its debut in 1989, and those were followed by “Red, White and Tuna” in 1998, and “Tuna Does Vegas” in 2010.
I hope to see you soon in Tuna, Texas!
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at email@example.com.