(Cast members Jocelyn Robitaille as The Mayor and Carson Diemer as Jack Skellington performing in Lakeshore Academy of Fine Arts (LAFA) production of The Nightmare Before Christmas Experience at the Urban Field House on Friday, January 25, 2020. Photo above by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.)
Finding all the excitement of Halloween a bit on the boring side, skeleton man Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of Halloweentown, decides the grass is finer and greener when its covered in snow, just like it is at Christmastown. He takes a trip to the town and sees considerable potential to put another holiday under his despotic wing. Sadly, for him, it doesn’t turn out quite the way he fancies in Lakeshore Academy of Fine Arts (LAFA) presentation of the Nightmare Before Christmas Experience at the Urban Fieldhouse in Belle River.
In fact, poor ol’ Jack, played with great contemplative style by Carson Diemer, finds himself in a debacle of sorts that has him kidnap Sandy Claws. In the role of the Christmas King, so to speak, Mena Fusaro performs as a particularly endearingly wise and magical person hardly all that fazed by the pumpkin king’s efforts to take over Christmas.
The bored but enterprising Jack wants to enjoy all the riches of this new, to him, holiday and to ensure “peace on earth and goodwill to men” will no longer rule the roost in Christmastown.
While it is a Nightmare Experience, in reality the musical drama is more of a romance. Continually lurking in the background is Tess Gillies, in the role of Sally. Gillies, who plays the part as nothing less than a master lurker, brings to the role all the enthusiasm of a hopeful woman, in this case one created by Caiden Cage’s character, Dr. Finkelstein, looking for a certain love interest in all the same places, which, is wherever the pumpkin king happens to be.
Cage brings to his role an incredible matter of fact subtleness which he expresses as exasperation, particularly the chores he must perform, like resewing Sally’s detached arm.
What is most remarkable and enjoyable is the ability of the 28 actors, eight of them actually play double roles, who move about the stage in perfect harmony with even more perfect choreography. Such an accomplishment isn’t all that easy.
Eva Quinn, in the role of Witch Nutmeg, tells Eyes on Windsor, the challenges of moving around the stage and avoiding the many props and the other actors takes considerable practice. This is her fifth acting role and she, like all the rest of the cast, is having the time of her life, and it shows.
The props themselves form a very elaborate set for the play, put together by designer Darren Dauphinee. He tells Eyes on Windsor that while it looks complicated the fact that it is all made to look a wee bit rough, giving all the pieces their own personality, means a few carpentry errors here and there are not noticeable.
They are certainly well-hidden. The set appears immaculate, representing the work of seven scene painters, Madison and Krista Kool, Steven Ilijanich, Ashley Poulin, Ruby and Abigal Dauphinee and Caiden Finlay.
Most of the front of stage elements are on wheels for seamless changes as the scenes and the locale move around from Pumpkintown to Christmastown.
One might ask why a Christmas themed play in January? It is a question Eyes on Windsor put to LAFA’s proprietor Sarah Ilijanich. It was simply because the play was picked by the students.
It is nothing if not a good choice if only to bring some beloved characters to Belle River, including Mia Milosevski who takes the rotund Oogie Boogie to new levels of sinister along with Halloweentown’s mayor, a role played decisively by Jocelyn Robitaille. And then there is the delightful Aliva Brockman in the role of both narrator, which she does so well, and the Corpse Bride. Her costume is extravagant, one any bride, corpse or otherwise would love. Without question, Isaiah Bommarito does an incredible job playing Jack’s ghostly dog Zero which requires him to be quite dog like.
In fact, all of the costumes are, in a single word, fantastic. Costume designers Megan McCabe and Julia Ilijanich have done a superior job in outfitting all of the actors, no easy task, in clothing appropriate to the roles of their characters.
Putting it all together is the great work of Director and Musical Director Sydney Sholdice and Michael Roy aided by junior instructor Erika Soulliere and Lighting Designers Lucas Revenberg, Sarah Davies and Urban Kris.
Just to experience the joy of LAFA’s actors, some in the first roles of their lives, makes The Nightmare Before Christmas Experience one to watch in person to truly enjoy their particular outstanding effort.
The next performance at the Urban Fieldhouse will be Saturday, January 25 at 2pm & 7pm and a final performance on Sunday, January 26 at 2pm. Tickets are $20 each and available at the door, from any cast member, or online at http://www.lakeshoreacademyoffinearts.com
Article by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.