“Le Club Noel” at Taproot Theatre

The evening’s about to begin at Valerie’s popular Parisian cabaret, but she’s got troubles. The cook’s suddenly missing, and there’s no replacement, that is until an unexpected man walks in to fill the bill. The musicians play. The chanteuse sings. Valerie (acted with panache by Faith Russell) breathes a sigh of relief. And all is well.

But this is 1933, and all is not well in Europe. Memories of WWI resonate. The economic instability reinforces the right wing. There’s an increase in xenophobia; riots break out; and the call for “traditional values” increases in volume. It doesn’t bode well.

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Mark Tyler Miller, Candace Vance and Edd Key in Le Club Noel at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

“Le Club Noel” directed by Karen Lund and written by Seattle locals Candace and Sam Vance is a show that combines harsh political and social realities with the joy and even the miracle of Christmas. It’s filled with good music and humor as well as a few lessons on compassion, trust, and valor.

Candace and Sam Vance, accomplished musicians and actors as well as playwrights, bring a depth of feeling to two of the lead roles. Their young son appears to have inherited their talent. Playing the son of the chanteuse, he transforms from a somber, emotionally wounded child into a joyful magic maker.

On Christmas Eve, Le Club Noel dons festive garb. Its big-hearted, no-nonsense owner Valerie leads the entire audience in a Christmas carol sing-along even as she manages to keep the fascists at bay. Edd Key and Mark Tyler Miller the Club’s two guitarists and Ms. Vance on accordion provide the accompaniment.

This is a refreshing departure from the usual Christmas fare, and it’s a splendid introduction to Taproot’s refurbished home. The theatre company has managed not only to survive the tragic fire of a couple of years ago, but to raise the funds needed to expand its facilities. The handsome new lobby and cafe area along with all the backstage necessities for a growing theatre are now in place.

It is indeed a merry Christmas at Taproot, celebrated with a spirited production.

Through Dec. 28 at Taproot Theatre, 204 North 85th St., Seattle, (206 781-9707 or www.taproottheatre.org).

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