Theatre Review - A Don’t Hug Me Christmas Carol Turns the Dickens’ Classic Upside-Down

Boat Club Productions’ A Don’t Hug Me Christmas Carol
Turns the Dickens’ Classic Upside-Down

Is the Boat Club Production’s of A Dont Hug Me Christmas Carol a preposterous parody of Minnesotans, mocking life in the frozen tundra we call home, and making fun of snowmobilers, small-town bars, and (gasp) even Charles Dickens’s immortal classic, A Christmas Carol ?

Ya sure, you betcha!

Was much of the show’s bawdy and risqué humor absolutely groan-worthy?

For sure!

Oh, fer cryin’ out loud is this really a musical too?

Yup, you’ll want to be a-singing along with such show stoppers as “The Wheel is Turnin’ but the Hamster is Dead,” “Gramma Cut the Christmas Cheese,” “Gunner Fell Into an Ice Hole,” “I’m So Hosed,” and “I Love You More Than Football.”

Okie, dokie then, here’s the “thin as ice” plot for the show. So, it is Christmas Eve in frosty Bunyan Bay, Minnesota. A few of the denizens of the local bar are downing a few suds and listening to crotchety, cranky Gunner (Michael Kraklio) get into yet another argument with his long-suffering wife, Clara (Tanya Moore).

When Gunner storms out, climbs on his trusty Skidoo, and promptly goes through the ice, he ends up in the hospital in a coma. And like his literary counterpart, the “wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner,” Ebenezer Scrooge, Gunner is visited by three spirits who make him realize what his life and wife really mean to him.

Kraklio fully embodies the Christmas-hating bah-humbugging Scrooge alter ego character. And while he spends much of the show sitting in a corner in a hospital gown, watching the alternate realities of what his life could become, Kraklio convincingly throws in his snarky punchlines and comments to the audience’s delight.

At the heart of the show, Tanya Moore’s Clara follows in the footsteps of classic sitcom wives who should have left their jerk husbands long since. Think Edith and Archie Bunker in All in the Family; Alice and Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners; Peg and Al Bundy from Married with Children, and even the cartoon characters of Marge and Homer Simpson.

Moore shows all the shades of Clara’s sweet, kind, and understanding nature, finally coming to a breaking point. After putting up for years with Gunner’s foul temper, she makes the audience root for her to find someone better to share her life. Moore also has a beautiful voice, not always given the best chance to shine with the silly songs.

Absolutely in her element, Christina Stroup is a scream as the town floozy, Bernice Lundstrom. The drunker her character becomes, the more audacious her over-the-top behavior ratchets up. She uses her Broadway belt voice well, even on cheesy songs with ridiculous and provocative lyrics.

Stroup has her biggest moments in the show portraying a hilarious Tiny Tim and later paying a comic tribute to Bernice’s idol in the song What Would Barbra Streisand Do?

Supporting actors Chris Ibarra as the nitwit Kanute Gunderson, and Stuart Gordon playing the smarmy and suave Sven Jorgensen, are strong additions to this hard-working troupe of actors. They all do their best to wring out every nuance, innuendo, and double entendre in a ludicrous show that is definitely not Tony-award-winning material.

Wearing two hats for Dont Hug Me (one of them a baseball cap, fer sure), Jason Vincent both produced and directed the show, in his directorial debut. His quick pacing made the show fly by in under two hours with intermission.

Having produced this same show last year, Vincent knew his audience well and how they would find this absurd show a stress reliever and a place to laugh out loud, in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

And guffaw they did throughout, even when being insulted for wearing a baseball cap in the theater or when being “flashed” by the drunken Bernice.

Vincent even made a shameless plug in the show for his Boat Club restaurant, without missing a beat, gaining one of the biggest laughs of the night.

One of the true stars of the show is Jeff Brown and Curtis Phillips’ fabulous bar set. Looking every bit the seedy, tacky small-town hang-out, each element of the set decoration, from authentic beer signs to a deer head decorated for Christmas, created the perfect ambiance for this raucous, madcap romp.

Is this show necessarily everyone’s cup of egg nog? Geez Louise, maybe not . . . but the sold-out house on opening night was buying what the cast was selling.

To keep the fun going after the show, the crowd happily headed straight to the August Fitger Room next door for libations and hors d oeuvres . . . cheese balls and crackers anyone?

To get in the spirit of the show, load up before on lutefisk, tater-tot hot dish (with a big dollop of top the tater), and jello salad with plenty o’ Reddi-Wip!

Okay, youse guys and gals, put on your best flannel or favorite beer t-shirt, loosen your belt, and sit back for a wild ride on a “skidaddle” to Bunyan Bay’s tackiest establishment.

Don’t cha’ know, if yer not busy goin’ to the “Cities,” out ice-fishin,’ or to a meat raffle or a potluck, you have a few more chances to catch A  Don’t Hug Me Christmas Carol before last call at the bar!

Information on A Don’t Hug Me Christmas Carol
With book and lyrics by Phil Olson

DATES: December 8-17, 2023
SHOWTIMES: December 8-9 7:30 pm | December 10 2:00 pm
December 14-16 7:30 pm | December 17 2:00 pm
LOCATION: Spirit of the North Theatre, Historic Fitger’s Building – 3rd Floor
TICKETS: (218) 623-7065 or at

This production does contain adult humor and may not be suitable for children.


Next up for Boat Club Productions:
“For the Love of Theatre” A Theatre Gala on Friday, February 6, 2024
With A Sneak Peek of Boat Club’s 2024 Season
Tickets available at 218-623-7065 or
100 percent of the profits going to benefit Boat Club Productions


About Sheryl Jensen - Arts & Entertainment Editor

A retired educator with the Duluth Public Schools, Sheryl Jensen has been a theater director of over 60 school and community productions. Her production of William Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew at East High School won the National High School Theater award from the BRAVO television network.

Having written theater, music, dance, and opera reviews for the Duluth News Tribune for many years, she now is the Arts & Entertainment Editor for Destination Duluth.





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