Seattle playwrights and actors Candace and Sam Vance have created a new production for the holiday season. Le Club Noel takes place in a 1930’s Parisian cabaret surrounded by the incipient stages of World War II. The Nazis are knocking on Paris’s door and it will take a great inner strength of the play’s characters to soldier on and find some genuine Christmas warmth and joy amidst the looming darkness. Candace assumes the role of Chantrice, the chanteuse of the late night bar, watched over by the no-nonsense Valerie, played by the engaging Faith Russell. Act I is a slow go; the exposition seems to get dragged down by the original tunes that randomly pop up, performed by the two women and sometimes joined by Mark Tyler Miller and Edd Key, two more employees of the club. The musicianship, featuring two guitars and an accordion, is awfully basic, but everyone seems to have their heart in the right place and performs the pieces with gusto.
Act II picks up well and features a fun Christmas song audience sing-along and some genuine lovely new tunes. I found a lullaby that came along late in the show very engaging. The first act features piped in radio announcements that remind us of the turbulent political scene outside of the restaurant. This device is dropped in Act II, but would have come in handy to clarify some of the chaos that is taking place right beyond the club’s doors.
Ryan Childers and Jay Cross assume the roles of menacing French soldiers bringing high levels of stress to our game entertainers who want to maintain their nightclub’s promise of “dreams for peace and joy” and “a bit of the divine.” Costume designer Sarah Burch Gordon, who has captured the time period wonderfully, earns special recognition. Candace Vance appears particularly stunning in some of her colorful outfits. The Taproot is looking really spiffy these days as well; their new facilities next-door provide a welcome lobby space to hang out in before show time.
Le Club Noel runs through December 28, Wednesday through Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Saturday matinees are at 2 p.m. The director is Karen Lund; the music director is Sam Vance; Scenic and sound design by Mark Lund and lighting by Kent Cubbage. Jenny Lamb serves as stage manager, Matt Orme as fight choreographer. More ticket information at 206-781-9707 or www.taproottheatre.org.