Laurie Carter is delighted.
The director of the Peninsula Players’ new Christmas-themed show is busily putting her cast of nine through their paces as opening night approaches.
And “Uh-Oh, Here Comes Christmas” is taking shape with two faces who will be new to Long Beach Peninsula audiences.
Joining the ensemble cast — who all have multiple roles — are Mike Mathis and Evelyn Benenati. While their ages may be different, they are both appearing in their first show.
“It is nice to have fresh faces — and they have been really easy to work with,” said Carter. “Evelyn is the youngest and she’s doing a marvelous job. Mike Mathis brings a new dimension. We have added parts for him and he has been working hard on it all.”
Benenati is an Ilwaco High School student who is hoping to gain experience onstage to position herself for a career in television.
“This is my first time since elementary school,” said the IHS senior, who developed self confidence riding and training horses.
“I’m probably about 20 years or more younger than everyone, but they treat me like I am one of them,” she said. “They have welcomed me — that means it’s a lot less stressful than I expected.”
The musical show offers 15 comic and poignant vignettes about Christmas, including a fresh look at Scrooge and a discussion of terrible gift exchanges, plus a celebration of the winter solstice. It is based on essays by Robert Fulghum, known for the bestseller, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”
Mathis moved to Ilwaco from Portland a couple of years ago and is delighted to embrace small-town living.
His only previous “show business” experience was playing a dead body on the beach for the “Ghost Adventures” TV episode filmed in 2018.
“I have never tried anything like this,” said Mathis, who works in maintenance at the Sou’Wester in Seaview and admits to being 66. “At my age, I have got to try new things” he joked.
Mathis was first cast in a couple of scenes, although more were added when a couple of actors who auditioned dropped out.
“It was more comfortable with just a few lines,” he said. “It’s way harder than I expected to memorize it all and learn moving on stage with other characters.”
Fellow cast members have welcomed them.
“He has been a delight — and it’s his first show,” said Robert Scherrer, a longtime actor with the troupe.
Another stalwart, Rita Smith, agreed. “It’s nice to have new people,” she said. “They have never been on stage. Evelyn is in several scenes — she’s the starry-eyed kid!”
The production opens Friday, Nov. 15 at the River City Playhouse, 127 Lake St., Ilwaco, and runs through Nov. 24. Also in the cast are Ed Ahlers, Karl Johnson, Bette Lu Krause, Kevin Perry and Rose Wallace.
For anyone who may be interested in joining the troupe, the next auditions are 6 p.m. Dec. 17 and 18 for “A Bag Full of Miracles,” which will be staged March 20-April 5, 2020; Smith will direct.