‘Christmas on the Rocks’ is not your average Christmas show, in the best possible way

Matt Reece, 'Christmas on the Rocks' at the Warehouse Theatre. Photo by Will Crooks

Characters like Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, Clara from “The Nutcracker,” Ralphie from “A Christmas Story,” and Tiny Tim from “A Christmas Carol” are at the center of “Christmas on the Rocks,” but instead of their classic tales, the show portrays a hilarious comedy of what they’ve become when they have grown up and realized that life isn’t always Christmas carols and candy canes.

The Warehouse Theatre presents “Christmas on the Rocks” for the second time, as the show was a hit in its first run. The comedy centers on a dive bar where the classic Christmas characters find themselves on Christmas Eve, thinking back on their lives and consulting the bartender with their problems.

The show is directed by Chip Egan, who directed it in its first run, and it will feature all of the same actors, with one special addition.

Ronn Carroll, Broadway actor and New Yorker of almost 50 years, will be playing the role of the bartender, which he originated in the 2013 debut of the show at TheaterWorks in Hartford, Connecticut.

Ronn Carroll portraying the bartender in “Christmas on the Rocks,” a role that he helped originate in the show’s first run. Photo by Will Crooks.

Like any good bartender, Carroll offers a kind word and a beverage so his patrons can drink their problems away. On an ordinary Christmas Eve, the bar brings in patrons familiar to all, who hilariously air their problems to Carroll as the show goes on.

“The creator of the evening asked the playwrights to imagine that these characters from childhood stories have grown up and that their lives have been pretty ruinous,” Carroll recalls from the creation process. “They have grown up and screwed up, and this particular evening they are kind of drowning their sorrows across the bar from this guy, lamenting the way that their lives have gone astray from their childhood beginnings.”

“I think of him [the bartender] as the spirit of Christmas,” Egan says. “These people come in and they have nothing but regrets and sorrows and difficulties in their lives, and he reminds them that it is Christmas, and this is the time of year you look on the bright side and think about your blessings. I think everybody’s ideal bartender is the guy who listens to you while you cry in your beer and helps you leave with a better attitude, and that’s what he does.”

While the story does focus on some of the hardships that life brings, it is first and foremost a comedy.

“This is an evening of sketch comedy. It’s seven playwrights who have written seven sketches that range from 10-15 minutes,” Egan explains. “If there’s one that you don’t particularly like, there’s another one right away. It’s a really fun holiday satire.”

Despite the spirited movie and book characters, the show is able to create a connected narrative that viewers can relate to.

“I think everybody remembers Christmas as a child when it was completely idealized, and then as you grow up Christmas can be a struggle for a lot of people,” Egan says. “So life gets a little real, and these characters have found that out. And it’s heartening for them to know that there’s still an opportunity for them to enjoy Christmas Eve.”

To add even more mischief and laughs, each actor (other than Carroll) portrays more than one of the bar-goers, leading audiences to question and laugh at the realization that each actor can pull off such a feat.

The show offers a different option for more mature holiday audiences who are looking for a change of pace.

“It’s a change-up for the season. It honors the season but it sort of gives it another lens, especially when you think of all those cartoons that everyone loves,” Egan says. “The Warehouse’s tag line is ‘intense, intimate, and unexpected’ — that describes this play — it’s a comedy that’s intense, intimate, and unexpected in the best possible way.”

If you go …

What: “Christmas on the Rocks”
When: Dec. 6-23
Where: The Warehouse Theatre, 37 Augusta St., Greenville
Cost: $35-$40
Info: 864-235-6948, warehousetheatre.com


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