PORT TOWNSEND — Let’s have us a fresh take on Scrooge and “A Christmas Carol,” shall we? Let’s turn the old curmudgeon into a real-life Port Townsend businesswoman circa 1889, and stir in some salty musical numbers, local actors and guest stars.
So schemed the creators of “Spirit of the Yule,” Key City Public Theatre’s production opening Wednesday and running through Dec. 30. With the historical hotelier Henrietta Maynard in the lead, the show is a rare animal: a stage musical written by two women.
Sequim-based composer and arranger Linda Dowdell dreamed up “Yule” with Denise Winter, Key City’s artistic director.
Since its 2016 debut, the show has become an annual holiday production at the downtown Port Townsend theater.
The 2018 cast features the nationally known Vickie Daignault as twice-divorced, hard-nosed Henrietta.
She’s proprietress of the Delmonico Hotel, where this “Yule” tale has her conducting several kinds of business.
Henrietta was in fact owner of the Maynard Hotel, a late-19th- to early 20th-century inn where there was live music and dancing.
Today the Disco Bay Detour sits near its old spot on U.S. Highway 101 in Discovery Bay.
In “Yule,” Dowdell and Winter give Henrietta some fictional conceits. A shrewd entrepreneur, her pleasures include shooting, drinking and profits. Her hotel’s workers include, well, women who welcome clients.
“She’s so nasty. It’s so much fun to play someone who has so many evil tentacles,” said Daignault.
She’s been traveling around the country portraying vivid women; just finished a run as Detective Audrey O’Connor in the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “Between Riverside and Crazy” at American Stage in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Greg Stone, recently seen in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre, plays Henrietta’s deceased business partner Jacob Marley. Key City theatergoers saw him last year in “Murder Ballad,” a show that, like “Yule,” had the house band onstage.
In the hands of this cast and crew, “Yule” is many things. It’s a look back at local history, yes, and an ode to Charles Dickens’ tale of the miserly business owner transformed by the specters of past, present and future. Unfolding in Port Townsend, aka the City of Dreams, it gives the audience glimpses of real people and actual places — plus the ghostly ones who haunt Henrietta. She changes her ways, but only after the comeuppance that rocks her world.
All of this is set to Winter’s choreography and Dowdell’s original music, played live in the snug theater.
Dowdell is bandleader and piano player. For this show she’s brought in violinist Claire Martin, a peripatetic musician whose gigs have taken her to San Francisco and Philadelphia, plus drummer Clover Coupe-Carlin, a recent Port Townsend High School graduate headed for Cornish College of the Arts.
The ghosts who lead Henrietta on her travels through time are portrayed again this year by Patricia Willestoft, Consuelo Aduviso and Tomoki Sage, while Key City veteran Maggie Jo Bulkley plays Henrietta in her young, romantic days. Nate Stosius is Bob Cratchit, Brendan Chambers is Nephew Fred, Bry Kifolo is Pearl and Zoe Cook returns as Maddie Mae, “Yule’s” Tiny Tim character.
“Spirit of the Yule” is running in repertory with Key City’s comedy “Every Christmas Story Ever Told,” which also features Sage, Chambers, and Stosius. That wild romp through yuletide traditions, tales and songs tumbles across the stage in matinee and evening shows through Dec. 29.
“Spirit’s” two creators, meantime, have dreams for their musical. They believe this Port Townsend story of an entrepreneurial woman — intertwined with Dickens’ universal theme — has legs.
“Denise and I are very interested in having this show become published,” said Dowdell, “and performed by people all over the world.”