Backlot Players’ ‘Christmas Belles’ starts holiday season with laughs

lshirley@macon.comNovember 15, 2013 

Christmas comes early to Forsyth as the “Dearly Beloved” Futrelle sisters return in its sequel, “Christmas Belles.”

Ladonna Olivieri plays Honey Raye in the comedy, presented by the Backlot Players and opening Friday at the Rose Theater.

“One of the characters calls the three sisters the fertile, the flirt and the felon, and I’m the flirt,” Olivieri said. “I have a shady reputation, I have moved away and come back, and I’m directing the Christmas pageant as a way to restore my reputation.”

There are 10 other characters in the show, all of whom director Marion McDougall calls “very colorful.” In addition to the three Futrelle sisters, there is a young couple, a minister, a wealthy lady, an Elvis impersonator, a suffering Santa and a young man who works at the Dairy Dog and likes to pull his little red wagon behind him everywhere -- and who ultimately saves the day.

“It’s a lot of fun, a lot of Southern humor. The belly laughs come one right after another,” McDougall said.

The story takes place in Fayro, Texas, and follows the townsfolk through the production of the annual Christmas pageant. Honey Raye has taken over from Miss Geneva, who directed the previous 27 shows.

“Geneva is not happy that I’ve taken over, and I’m not happy that she’s trying to usurp my authority. I’m trying so hard to make the Christmas pageant spectacular, and everything that can go wrong does go wrong,” Olivieri said, adding that Honey Raye is a character she can relate to, for the most part.

“I am outspoken and don’t pull any punches. Honey Raye is very flashy, so I’m having to push my tacky side. She’s obnoxious, but she pulls it off perfectly, and she doesn’t care what anyone thinks. I admire that. It’s been a stretch in some ways and liberating in others.”

Olivieri serves as the Backlot Players’ publicity director and has had a few smaller roles in their productions, but Honey Raye is her first major role.

“I had to memorize a lot of lines, but it’s been fun, and the three of us ‘sisters’ are clicking hilariously and really acting like sisters. We have completely taken on the roles,” she said, adding that it has been hard to get through rehearsals without the whole cast breaking out in laughter, which, McDougall added, is a good way to kick off the holiday season.

“It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be cute, and people are really going to enjoy it,” she said. “It gets you in a happy spirit.”

“Christmas Belles”

When: 8 p.m. Nov. 15-16 and 22-23; 2 p.m. Nov. 17 and 24

Where: Rose Theater, 23 W. Johnston St., Forsyth

Cost: $15 adults; $12 seniors, students and active military

Information: 478-994-0443

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