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'Follies' fulfilled

Touchstone Theatre makes good on its promise of vaudevillian holiday hijinks with "Christmas City Follies XIII," which continues through Dec. 22.

Directed by "Follies" veteran Jp Jordan, the side-splitting show kicked off opening night, Nov. 30, with Touchstone Ensemble apprentices Gary Warren and Kyle Lewis as carolers singing a literal interpretation of the holiday classic "Deck the Halls," which involves beating fellow cast members with "boughs of holly."

"That is never making it into this year's show!" jokes Touchstone co-founder-Ensemble member Bill George after the hysterical song concludes and the rest of the cast rushes off the stage, leaving Kathryn Krull as Tralala the Christmas Troll to serenade the audience with a song about her history.

George returns as The Old Guy with his politically-charged shopping cart to consult a doctor about a mysterious, holiday-related illness that ails him, and finds himself making the difficult choice between his life or the precious belongings he totes in his cart.

The ensemble works in some Bethlehem history when member Mary Wright portrays Agnes Chundlebatch, host of fictional talk show "My Little Beth-lee-um," along with Joe Skull, "Follies" most-frequent guest-star. They discuss the various festivals that take place in Bethlehem, like Musikfest and Celtic Classic, and conclude that all the "fests" inevitably become Beer Fests.

"We're just a fest-a-palooza here!" Wright (Chundlebatch) quips.

Of course, there are some more serious interludes sprinkled into this year's "Follies." For instance, Wright steps out of character in the second act to tell a moving Christmas story about when she lived with her family in Burma during a military coup.

There's a sneak peak at how Santa and Mrs. Claus' marriage fares during the holiday season, the Pajama Sisters are back with two new covers, the cast puts on a light show to the tune of "Silent Night" and much more in "Follies XIII."