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Jo-Ann Waytowich (l) plays Ivanka, which means Valerie Ann Pearson (r) gets no turkey.
Saad Majoka/the Gauntlet

Theatre Preview: Ivanka laughs so hard she tinkles

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She stands defiantly in beige nylon support stockings, a floral print dress and orthopedic shoes. Horn-rimmed glasses hide a determination apparent when she talks of doing Christmas the "Kan-a-dad-ian" way--roasting herself a turkey and eating it with cranberry sauce. This woman is Ivanka and she is back in Calgary for Christmas, bringing the gift of comedy to Lunchbox Theatre.

Being the fourth in a series of five musicals involving Ivanka, Ivanka's Perfect Christmas is a one-hour comedy about the struggles Ivanka and her sister Marucia face in their quest to have a normal Canadian Christmas while still remaining true to the traditions of their homeland, Slobjevia. Along with Ivanka's quirky decorating and cooking techniques, audiences are treated to music, a bellyful of laughs and a bundle of warm Christmas cheer. Jo-Ann Waytowich, the creator and writer of the Ivanka series, plays Ivanka and is joined by Robert Klein, returning for his second year as Ivanka and Marucia's father, Tato. New to the cast this year is Valerie Ann Pearson playing Marucia, Ivanka's mute twin sister.

Despite the second year the play is running, Ivanka looks to be in even better shape than last year.

"There were some things that I wanted to change and a few things that changed organically too," says director Mark Bellamy.

"I looked at my scripts from last year, watched the archival video and there were a few things that I went 'ya I was never quite happy with that' and 'that didn't quite work the way I wanted it to.'"

Although the play is a comedy, Brad hopes audiences receive a deeper meaning from attending.

"[The message] is basically that. Christmas is about family. It doesn't matter what you eat on Christmas or how you wrap your presents or when you celebrate, it is just about what you give with your heart."

Along with spreading Christmas cheer and providing audience members with whole hearted chuckling, the play is also contributing to Lunchbox Theatre's Feed the Seed fundraiser campaign. At the end of every show, the cast members canvas the audience members for cash donations for the Mustard Seed in Calgary. Last year Lunchbox Theatre collected $12,580 in donations. This year they hope to surpass their record from last year and collect close to $15,000.

In running the same play for a second year, the relationship between crew and cast has only gotten stronger, resulting in solid character representation and excellent chemistry.

"[The play] does all the things that you would want any good play to do: it makes you laugh, it makes you think a little bit and it even makes you cry a little bit," praises Brad.

So for all those bah-humbuggers not yet in the Christmas spirit, no ghosts are needed to cure your scrooge syndrome. Ivanka's Perfect Christmas is the perfect prescription for you.

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Comments

I brought Ivanka into Rainy River for our 100th Centennial celebrations and what a blast she was! Her wit and humour are not surpassed by any and all young and old enjoyed the performance about weight loss. I saw her Christmas performance in Thunder Bay at Magnus Theatre and again she was worth every penny of inspirational and exhuberant laughter! She's well worth seeing!