Longtime fans of the Richey Suncoast Theatre Christmas show will remember Mrs. Artiluke, the harridan who founded the CAVE dwellers (Citizens Against Virtually Everything), a thinly disguised homeowners association with a fervid goal of thwarting anything that sounds like fun.
Mrs. Artiluke (Jeannie Botz) ruled the stage in the 2003, 2004 and 2005 shows, dispensing her brand of justice to anyone who dared to smile.
"Well, get ready — she's back," said Charlie Skelton, the president of the theater board who also writes the annual show.
"They threw her out of the condo association, and her husband, too," Skelton said. "Now they're divorced, her daughter is off to college — and has gotten wise to her — and Mrs. Artiluke has gotten into the toy business.
"She wanted toys at a cheap price, so she got them from China. Then she finds out they are full of lead, so she calls the North Pole, talks to one of Santa's helpers and wants to trade (her toys) for some of theirs," he said. She tells the elves that she just wants kids around the world to get a variety of toys, so it will work out fine for everyone.
Her dastardly plot is eventually foiled, thanks in part to Chip Holmes (Chip Wichmanowski), Sherlock's rather dim bulb little brother; Dr. Potson (Ralph Gillingham), who is Dr. Watson's half brother; and Keith Pot, Dr. Potson's half-half brother (thus only half a last name).
Along the way, the rest of the 96-member cast sings traditional holiday songs, a quartet of dancers from Tahiti (Liliya Gevorgyan, Nicci Gevorgyan, Star Verosic, Sky Verosic) perform; a Barbie Doll (Elizabeth Phillips) and two Ken Dolls (Chris Cavalier, Jonnathan Virella) meet and mix; a Military Trio (Robin Walters, Johnathan Santoni, Amber Dollar) arrive; and a host of elves keep things hopping.
"We have a lot of new people this year," Skelton said. "It's a chance for whole families to be on stage together."
The 10th anniversary show includes excerpts from previous shows, as well as a couple of surprises. Skelton acknowledges the holiday show is a tad offbeat and is proud that it's often written around the talents of whomever shows up for auditions.
"You never know who's going to walk in," he said.
The Saints Doo Wop group appears in the second act, Skelton said. And Mrs. Artiluke finally finds her true calling.
The music director is Stella Gaukhshteyn; choreographer is Caitlin Ramirez; director and costume designer is Marie Skelton.