Everybody loves holiday traditions, especially theater companies. Theatre troupes love putting on an annual show that families can attend as a cherished yearly event. But some companies already have a lock on many of the big-name Christmas shows. How does a group start a new tradition of their own? That was the question that Mary Boyer, artistic director of the Lakeside Theatre Company, puzzled over.
“When Lakeside Theatre Company was saying, ‘We want a Christmas production that we bring back every year.’ Of course, A Christmas Carol is already being done, and Nutcracker Suite, as well. But then the managing director and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, Remember the Night!” Originally a 1940 film written by Preston Sturges, a beloved writer and director of screwball comedies, Remember the Night tells the tale of an assistant DA who bails out a young woman accused of shoplifting on Christmas Eve, leading to wacky shenanigans and, just maybe, love.
A Charming Comedy
Boyer, a longtime fan of Sturges’ work, first encountered the film years ago and made watching it a personal holiday tradition. Now, Boyer hopes to make Remember the Night a tradition for many others with a new stage production at the Maumee Indoor Theater, beginning its run on December 5. “It’s a charming, romantic comedy, ultimately,” Boyer said. “It has a couple of elements of screwball comedy, which is very much Preston Sturgess’ style. It’s got a Christmas theme to it, but ultimately [it’s] just a charming, romantic comedy.”
But this production is not a straightforward adaptation of the film to the stage. That was indeed Boyer’s first idea before a friend of hers pointed out that the movie had also been adapted into a radio play in 1940, as well. Boyer immediately loved the idea of performing Remember the Night as a live production of the radio script. “I said, ‘That’s unique, that’d be fun, that’s a style that I haven’t tackled, and I think the audience would delight in it, because it works on two levels— it is a radio play, but the way we’re going to do it, it will play (well on stage) to our live audience.”
A Hidden Gem
Both actors who will be playing Remember’s lovestruck leads are uniquely qualified in their own way to bring these characters to the stage. Haley Taylor, who plays the unlucky shoplifter, Lee, has loved old movies for a long time and is a fan of Barbara Stanwyck, who played Lee in the original film.
“It’s a hidden gem— it’s not really watched as often as other classics like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ or ‘Miracle on 34th Street,'” Taylor said. “So I knew of the movie, and when I heard that Lakeside Theatre Company was going to be doing a production of it, I just thought it’s too perfect (of a fit), I have to audition for it.”
Nick Boyer, who plays the befuddled DA, Jack, has qualifications for bringing this radio show to life— and it’s not just that he’s also director Mary Boyer’s nephew. “I went to Eastern Michigan, I studied broadcasting and radio production… but I also minored in theatre arts,” Nick said. “The idea was to weave those things together and, maybe, one day, get into voice acting or something along those lines. So doing a radio show is absolutely up my alley.”
I Love Christmas
The show will be produced as if the audience is watching a live production of the original radio broadcast, complete with commercial interruptions. The actors will have scripts with them, but director Boyer impressed upon them that by the time the show goes on, the scripts should be little more than props. Above all, though, Boyer said she hopes the audience will come away from Remember the Night with a healthy dose of holiday cheer. “I want them to walk out with a smile on their faces saying ‘I love Christmas!'”
$24 for adults, $18 for seniors and students. 8pm, Thursday, December 5 through Saturday, December 7. 2pm, Friday, December 6 through Sunday, December 8. Maumee Indoor Theater, 601 Conant St, Maumee. 419-897-8902. thelakesidetheatrecompany.com