ST. PETERSBURG — On an October afternoon at Freefall Theatre, Matthew McGee and Michael Raabe were working out where they would add a new song to “The Night Before.” The holiday musical comedy penned by McGee, with original music and arrangements by Raabe, premiered at the theater last year.
An updated version of the show opens at Freefall on Nov. 25.
McGee said that because the show opened last year when the omicron variant was starting to circulate, people were hesitant to come. But as word got out, shows started selling out, meaning a lot of people weren’t able to see it.
So it made sense to bring it back this year, both for those who missed it and for folks to come back and see how it’s been updated.
“If you feel like you’ve seen ‘The Night Before,’ this one will be similar, but also very different in many ways,” McGee said.
The play centers on four friends who are meeting at Michael’s (played by Raabe) Florida condo for the holidays, on the eve of Christmas Eve, and it’s snowing. Hilarity and infectious musical mashups ensue, along with puppets.
Raabe said the show was conceived as an “Andy Williams special meets ‘Pee-Wee’s Playhouse,’ goofy and quirky but with a heart to it as well.”
The cast is composed of gifted actors and singers who also play instruments. Returning are Hillary Scales-Lewis (who starred in the theatre’s musical “Marie and Rosetta”) and Sara DelBeato, who stole the show last year as Phyllis Schatz, Michael’s crazy cat lady neighbor.
New to the cast is Robert Spence Gabriel, who recently played Pablo Picasso in Jobsite Theater’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.”
The original show incorporated current events, so those will be adjusted a little to include things like inflation to riff on. There will be new video elements, designed by artistic director Eric Davis. But a major update is including a fun Hanukkah moment and a new song “celebrating how everyone celebrates the season,” McGee said.
He said they edited out some bits, but for those who saw it last year, don’t worry: The Stephen Sondheim medley and magic brownies will remain.
McGee would like the show to become a holiday tradition for Freefall. He’s even floated the idea of a sequel, “The Night Before Two: The Schatz Sisters Save Christmas.”
“One of the great things about Freefall is we do these original pieces, and a lot of them grow organically out of just what we bring to them,” he said.
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If you go
“The Night Before.” Nov. 25-Dec. 24. $25-$55. Freefall Theatre, 6099 Central Ave. 727-498-5205. freefalltheatre.com.