WASILLA — Fruitcakes are the favorite holiday treats of few people, but a local cast hopes it will soon be the name of everyone’s favorite Christmas show.
“Fruitcakes” by Julian Wiles opens at Valley Performing Arts (VPA) on Friday, Nov. 27 at 7 p.m. The play runs through Dec. 20, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Marcia Beck directs the family show, so described not only for content, but for the cast itself — in the playbill audience members will see a lot of repeated last names, and several mother-child duos.
The largest family, with three members in the show, are the Singhs. Mom Alayna Singh plays the eccentric yet fashionable Mattie Sue.
“I’d say she has a heart as big as her hair,” Singh said.
Singh said she had dabbled in dance and choir as a student, but parenthood pushed those interests aside until her four girls grew old enough to act.
“I’m just now finally getting back into doing some things for me,” she said.
Daughter Liella Singh, 8, (who plays a pageant girl alongside her sister Tasina in “Fruitcakes”) “got the ball rolling,” her mother said, when she was cast in “The Velveteen Rabbit” at VPA last season. This year, they decided to have a go onstage together.
“It’s nice to be able to be involved with the children while they do it too,” Singh said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Laura Horning, who plays Miss Sarah, also knows the joys of acting with a child. She and her son, Micah Horning, were last seen acting together in “Pollyanna” at VPA, and before that in “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “The Wizard of Oz.”
Laura Horning said she’s always enjoyed acting, but after college stuck with mostly church productions around Christmas. Then Micah, currently a student and basketball player at Houston Middle School, took interest in theater, and they took the stage together.
Horning described her character in “Fruitcakes” as “a cranky old lady” with “a chip on my shoulder about everything.” But every year, without fail, she and her somewhat irresponsible sister, Miss Alice (played by Lori Zulliger) get together to bake boozy fruitcakes for everybody in town for Christmas.
So when a boy from out of town steals one of those cakes in his desperation for a meal, the two women notice immediately — one individual’s fruitcake is missing.
Middle-schooler Micah Horning plays the starring child role of Jamie, the “runaway kid who’s going through a hard time with his family,” he said.
Micah said he likes “being able to express my feelings” through theater, though the issues Jamie deals with in “Fruitcakes” aren’t exactly a picture of his own home life. Rather, he enjoys acting with his mother, especially because they can carpool.
“It’s fun, (and) I like it ’cause I don’t have to get anybody to drive me here,” he said.
Micah said sports practices and rehearsals can make for “very busy days,” but that it’s worth it, and his adult co-stars have agreed.
Dave Nufer plays opposite Micah as Mack Morgan, the owner of a “whirligig” shop that’s as much a “pillar in the community” as the man himself, Nufer said.
But Mack is not always the eager-to-please grandfatherly figure that he sometimes appears. He lost his wife many years earlier, and has become estranged from his adult son, who lives in the city and rarely visits.
“He’s found ways to keep himself busy through the hurt,” Nufer said.
This lays the stage for Jamie to slip into Mack’s life and find a place in the town, first by helping sell Christmas trees and then baking in the same kitchen he first stole from. The young boy is also able to help Mack realize he hasn’t dealt with all his family issues.
“He helps me to see and actually talk through things with him,” Nufer said.
Finding hope and being happy, especially in the company of others, he said, is not only an overarching theme of the play, but finds a place in the message of the Christmas season as well.
“It’s about being with family, it’s about celebrating those relationships, it’s about that hope. Christmas seems to help people do that better than the rest of the year,” Nufer said.
Nufer, Beck, the Hornings and the Singhs all said the play is sure to warm the heart, bring laughter and maybe a few tears.
Just take it from Liella Singh:
“The ending gets me every time!”
For show times, a complete cast list and tickets, visit valleyperformingarts.org.
Contact reporter Caitlin Skvorc at 352-2266 or firstname.lastname@example.org.