Ryan Landry and his Gold Dust Orphans return to the stage with “A Grinchley Christmas Carol”

Around the same time last year, playwright Ryan Landry wasn’t talking about something he’s presented every year since 1994: a comedic and outrageous Christmas-themed musical at a Boston club. With 2020 being the year of the COVID-19 lockdown, Landry had fallen back on an older and lonely passion: painting.

This year, as the pandemic subsided and theaters opened, he set the dramatist’s powder on fire. Landry and his troupe, the Gold Dust Orphans, will stage “A Grinchley Christmas Carol” from December 2 to 19 at the Iron Wolf Theater, a 265-seat venue in the Lithuanian club in South Boston. It is directed by Gold Dust veteran Kiki Samko. Some characters are in drag, others are not.

This is, of course, Landry’s take on the new Charles Dickens classic, one twist being that it marks the return of one of Landry’s longtime popular characters, Mrs. Grinchley. She is to Landry what Madea is to Tyler Perry. Landry says she’s appeared in seven or eight of the holiday musicals he’s played since “How Mrs. Grinchley Swiped Christmas” in 1994. If, for a moment, you thought Landry could have cleaned up his act to appease the tenor censor of those times, well, perish that thought.

“Absolutely not!” Landry said on the phone from his Provincetown home. “I would never do it in a million years. No one will make me ashamed of having fun. I think this brand new movement is just neo-Puritanism. There are not many levels in this thought: “Our way or you are out!” It’s going to bite them in the a–, but right now they’re having fun so let them have fun.

Ryan Landry as Mrs. Grinchley in “A Grinchley Christmas Carol”. (Courtesy of Michael von Redlich)

Landry is a cinephile and often draws inspiration from films or movie characters to build his musicals. Other Christmas outings include “Joan Crawford’s Christmas on the Pole”, “Who’s Afraid of the Virgin Mary?” “Silent Night of the Lambs”, “A Nightmare on Elf Street” and “Christmas on Uranus”, the last production in 2019.

For that show, Landry said, “I’m on the line from ‘A Christmas Carol’, but with the Grinch’s widow as Ebenezer Scrooge. And then she goes back to her past. It is familiar territory in this regard.

And yet (spoiler alert), says Landry, “In the first few minutes of the show, she kills the little match girl and pours battery acid on Bob Cratchit’s hands and puts them in a waffle iron and burns them. From there, it goes up. “

What is the horror of Mrs. Grinchley?

“Most horrible,” says Landry. “I fail to call him a human being. She is one thing. She’s, like, don’t flush the toilet [your toilet] for three years and you might have a picture of her. She even led the Grinch to his grave. It is the greediest, most rotten, and vilest thing that ever lived. Even at the end of it, I don’t want to mess things up, but she decides to take Teeny Tiny Tim under her wing and then she brings him out and tries to sell him for $ 5. She’s really quite hateful.

“She’s the kind of bad guy you really like to hate,” Landry adds. “At the same time, you can’t help but admire his honesty.”

For this year’s show, Landry was playing set up a musical he wrote, “Jerusalem Park” – “This is a theater company that goes to Bethlehem to perform the Nativity play and they encounter dinosaurs and other problems “- but he opted to make a change.

“I decided to do it next year because I wanted to bring back something classic,” says Landry. “The show is new, but the character, the people who have been coming to my shows for years, know who she is. I just needed to feel comfortable with everything. [The COVID-19 lockdown] threw the lives of so many people into total chaos.

“The particular challenge with this one is to get back into the theater after two years out,” says director Samko. “Managing energy and stamina, keeping everyone safe and healthy as we figure out how to produce in this landscape. The world is darker when we don’t have live performances; getting together in a space to tell a story and entertain adds so much richness.

Ryan Landry in
Ryan Landry in “A Grinchley Christmas Carol”. (Courtesy of Michael von Redlich)

When we spoke to each other in early November, Landry was in the middle of the first week of rehearsal. “It’s fantastic,” he says. “I’ve been doing this for about 40 years and I don’t feel comfortable when I don’t. We’ve already sold 1,700 tickets so I know it’s going to be a success. Things like that make me feel like I don’t have to pull my hair out like the good old days – ‘What am I going to do ?!’ Now I can really focus on giving them the best show possible without all the hassle and hassle.

Landry has a solid core of players in his company, many with him over the past dozen years. “Most of them are alumni who have been with me for a while, so they all know the drill,” says Landry. Her husband, Scott Martino, who plays “a drunken Mrs. Cratchit”, dates back to 25 years; new cast member Gina Carmela is “a young girl I met in Provincetown who came to shows and asked to get involved and she does.” I love her so much. It’s the little match girl.

Samko considers working with Landry to be like taking a master class in comedy. “You get all the knowledge of the science of screenplay and the architecture of the play world,” she says. “I ask everyone [in the cast] come up with an idea about their characters and be confident in their choices, but also willing to pivot a dime in a new direction if their idea doesn’t work out and be just as confident in the new direction. Basically we play and I think all the players have fun trying new things and making discoveries.

Since this is a musical, you’ll hear genres ranging from Broadway belts and jazz standards to rock and vintage soul. The songs include pieces of traditional Christmas carols and original songs like “I’ve Got My Muff to Keep Me Warm” and “I Like My Balls Hanging Low”.

Considering the material, what ages might this show be suitable for?

“Seven year olds watch ‘South Park’ and it’s pretty dirty and I love it,” says Landry. But for “Grinchley,” he postulates that it’s better “probably if they’re over 13 or 14. Jokes come so quickly. I don’t want a kid in the audience who doesn’t know what’s going on and it’s over their heads.

To attend, all members of the public must provide either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within the past 72 hours. Production will follow all city and state guidelines for indoor masking.

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