Theatre NOVA presents world premiere of ‘The Year Without a Panto Claus’ 


Theatre NOVA, Ann Arbor’s professional theatre with an exclusive focus on new plays and playwrights, presents the world premiere of “The Year Without a Panto Claus” by Carla Milarch and R. MacKenzie Lewis.

2017 was a bummer of a year. When Santa gets depressed, he decides to pack it in and disappear. Two of his elves search far and near looking for some genuine Christmas cheer. Arriving at a few decidedly un-Christmas-y locations, they face the wrath of the Heat and Snow Miser twins, the tropical town’s grumpy citizens, and a mysterious Russian bombshell named Vixen.

From the team that brought you An Almost British Christmas and Sugar Plum Panto, this hilarious romp is just what the therapist ordered to add a little levity to your holiday season. Bring the whole family to laugh, boo, hiss, and sing your way through another fun-filled night of heroes and villains, updated pop songs, holiday favorites, and merriment.

“The Year Without a Panto Claus” features Ramona BurnsLisa Michaels, and Scott Screws and is directed by Melissa Freilich. The production and design team includes R. Mackenzie Lewis (music director/composer), Forrest Hejkal (scenic design), Cal Schwartz (costume design), Allan McMillan (lighting design), Becky Fox (props), and Michelle Resnick (stage manager).

“The Year Without a Panto Claus” will run December 1 through December 31, 2017, at Theatre NOVA (410 W. Huron, Ann Arbor), a downtown performance space. Showtimes are 7:30 pm on Fridays, 3:00 pm and 7:30 pm on Saturdays, and 2:00 pm on Sundays. Theatre NOVA features free parking for patrons, as well as quick access to the city’s restaurants, bars, bakeries, and coffee shops.

Tickets are $20, $10 for kids (16 years and under). Theatre NOVA continues to making theatre accessible by offering pay-what-you-can tickets for those who need them. For tickets, visit, call 734-635-8450 (Tuesdays through Fridays from noon until 3:00 p.m.), or buy them in person at the box office one hour before show time.

Theatre NOVA is Ann Arbor’s resident professional theatre company. Its mission is to raise awareness of the value and excitement of new plays and playwrights and provide resources for playwrights to develop their craft by importing, exporting, and developing new work. This activity is supported by the MICHIGAN COUNCIL FOR ARTS AND CULTURAL AFFAIRS and the NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS.

CARLA MILARCH (Playwright) is a former Artistic Director of the award-winning Performance Network Theatre, whose passion for new plays led her to found Theatre NOVA.  As a dramaturg, director and artistic director, she has brought over 25 brand new plays to world premieres, as well as hundreds to staged readings, including those at the Michigan Playwrights Festival, the Fireside New Play Festival, the National New Play Network (NNPN) National Showcase of New Plays, and the Kennedy Center’s MFA playwright’s showcase. She served as a board member on the NNPN for 10 years and co-founded the Michigan Equity Theatre Alliance, on which she served as Board President from 2011-2014. Some awards include “Best Overall Season/Artistic Direction” from the Oakland Press, “Outstanding Contributions to an Ensemble” from The Detroit Free Press, “Most Valuable Performer” from the Oakland Press, and the Between the Lines “Angel” award for outstanding contributions to the LGBT community, as well as numerous awards for acting and direction. Carla started her career as an actress. By her early teens, Carla’s love for the arts flourished and she was accepted to the world-famous Interlochen Arts Academy in the acting department. Attending high school with Jennifer Ehle and Elizabeth Marvel, and later college with Parker Posey, Seth Gilliam, and Reno Wilson at SUNY Purchase, Carla studied alongside some of today’s most talented actors. Carla’s love and experience for both sides of the stage have taken her from producing theatre at The Barn Theater in Port Sanilac Michigan, to co-founding a theatre in Amarillo, TX with her Purchase classmates, to working at Bob and Harvey Weinstein’s MiraMax Films in New York City, to helping establish Performance Network as an artistic leader in Michigan, to producing theatre in a barn again, this time in the middle of a world-class city, at Theatre NOVA. She is a proud resident of Ann Arbor, where she lives with her husband Phil Powers and son, William Tyrone, a proud producer of regional theatre, and a proud advocate of the American New Play.

  1. MACKENZIE LEWIS (Music Director/Composer)is the composer and music director for Eastern Michigan University’s School of Theatre arts and lecturer and accompanist with the School of Music and Dance. Some favorite projects outside of the university have been orchestrating and music directing the national tour and Off-Broadway premiere of The Berenstain Bears LIVE! in Family Mattersthe Musical; music directing and orchestrating Gypsy at the Hangar Theatre in New York (Broadway World Award for Best Music Direction); music directing A Little Night Music at the Performance Network in Ann Arbor (Wilde Award for Best Music Direction and Best Musical); music directing Legally Blonde as a guest artist for MSU (Pulsar Award for Best Music Direction); composingIrrational (Wilde Award for Best New Script); associate music directing the workshop of Romance in Hard Times with William Finn at the Barrington Stage Co.; composing music for Mockingbird (two Helen Hayes nominations), Wings of Ikarus and Jason Invisible-all of which were commissioned and premiered at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.. He also composed the musicals Video Games: The Rock Opera, Treasure Island, Pinocchio, A Very British Christmas, A Sugar Plum Panto, andSoaring on Black Wings-a world premiere with Ben Vereen.

MELISSA FREILICH (Director) is a director, fight choreographer, and teacher located in Ann Arbor, MI.  She is also training to become a teacher of the Alexander Technique.  She graduated with a degree in Theatre and Classics from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.  She is an advanced actor combatant with the Society of American Fight Directors, an Associate Instructor in Dueling Arts International and an associate member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.  Directing credits include In the Next RoomSummer CannibalsEurydice, Steps, Yentl (asst.), and Clybourne Park (asst.).  Fight choreography includes OthelloTreasure IslandThe Three MusketeersAn Almost British ChristmasCut It OutBloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, The Pillowman, Fool for Love, Romeo and JulietA Fair Quarrel, The Roaring Girl, and Cabaret.



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