The Cornwalls’ All-Inclusive Cancun Christmas at the Chemainus Theatre Festival. A review.

The Cornwalls’ All-Inclusive Cancun Christmas at the Chemainus Theatre Festival. A review.

Everyone has their favourite family story of Christmas disaster and dysfunction—it’s what makes movies like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story perennial favourites during the holiday season.

The Cornwalls (introduced to Chemainus audiences in The Cornwalls’ Countryside Christmas in 2011) embark on an epic misadventure that features many stereotypes.  Skinflint Dad Harry (a jocular David Adams) on the occasion of his 25th anniversary decides to surprise his long-suffering wife Judy (Marlee Walchuk) and kids—rock-obsessed son Tommy (Mack Gordon) and newlywed daughter Sissy (Emily Henney) and son-in-law Kyle (Alexander Nicoll)—with an all-inclusive Christmas vacation in Mexico.

Of course, there are hiccups—from the 36 hour milk-run flight, to the one star package booked on points, to Sissy’s pregnancy and Tommy’s lost guitar.  Despite the challenges of vacationing in an unfamiliar location, the Cornwalls soldier through, love for one another emerging triumphant despite the frustrations.

Carolyn Rapanos incorporates the motifs and colours found in traditional Mexican tin Christmas ornaments into the set design, and utilizes mobile elements for airplane seats and resort golf carts.  The mariachi “band” (an excellent trio helmed by music director Nico Rhodes with Marisha Devoin on bass and Brad Shipley on guitar) plays from the rooftop. An alcove hides the hotel room, becoming at one point the site of the dreaded “special presentation”—an episode that clearly resonated with the audience from the many chuckles heard in the theatre.

Attired in 1980s garb of fluorescent track suits, leather jackets, glittery scarfs, big-bowed dresses, and matching Christmas-themed beach wear (costume designer Michelle Lieffertz) this intrepid family sings and dances to music of the era. Walchuk who has recently returned to the stage after a long career as a musician is a natural as Judy and her duet with Harry Stuck in the Middle an amusing show highlight.

Photo: Cim McDonald

Making their Chemainus debuts in two ancillary roles as resort staff –Alen Dominguez (Fernando) and Andrea Pizarro (Dalila) provide insight into the difficult position employees find themselves in—friendly without being friends, constantly trying to upsell.  Dominguez’ rendition of Paloma—sung from the balcony as a duet with Adams in the square below, is filled with longing and feeling; it’s a rare authentic moment amidst all the tomfoolery. Pizarro sparkles in her various persona, maintaining upbeat energy throughout.

Christmas Eve ends with a feast and karaoke night, allowing the actors and musicians to display their prowess on numbers ranging from Billie Jean to Sweet Caroline, Wind Beneath My Wings and, for the grand finale, a rousing Felix Navidad.

The Cornwalls’ All-Inclusive Cancun Christmas is a light and wacky portrayal of the off-beat side of festivities; one best not taken too seriously.

The Cornwalls’ All-Inclusive Cancun Christmas by Nicolle Nattrass and Mark DuMez
Chemainus Theatre Festival
November 17-December 31, 2017
Tickets: $26-$69 without buffet $38-98 with—depending on day and time
250-246-9820 / Toll Free: 1-800-565-7738



Creative Team

Director Barbara Tomasic
Set Designer Carolyn Rapanos
Costume Designer Michelle Lieffertz
Lighting Designer Conor Moore
Stage Manager Nicole Lamb
Apprentice Stage Manager Koh McRadu


Harry David Adams
Fernando Alen Dominguez
Tommy Mack Gordon
Sissy Emily Henney
Kyle Alexander Nicoll
Dalila Andrea Pizarro
Judy Marlee Walchuk


Bass Marisha Devoin
Keys Nico Rhodes
Guitar Brad Shipley

Disclaimer:  We attended The Cornwalls’ All-Inclusive Cancun Christmas as guests of the Chemainus Theatre Festival and the Playbill Restaurant.

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