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United Methodist’s madrigal delivers Christmas message wrapped in humor, high jinks

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Can the two clans of majesties get through a special supper without a royal rift-- or a rip-roarin’ food fight?

By MELODY JAMESON

SUN CITY CENTER — There’s this Elizabethan English kingdom, see, with a constantly kibitzing court of not-so-proper lords an’ ladies who love to eat an’ sing off tune an’ crack jokes at each other’s expense.

An’ they invite royals from a far off eastern realm to come by the castle an’ share a traditional holiday meal.  Only the easterners got their own customs, see.  They’re really different!  They talk strange an’ dress weird an’ like their food verrrrry spicy.  Even their royal offspring are like night and day.  Can the two clans of majesties get through a special supper without a royal rift-- or a rip-roarin’ food fight?   

In about two hours of majestic mayhem last week, the United Methodist Church madrigal players here once again posed and answered another of those questions that crop up from time to time in everyone’s life.  It was the fourth annual presentation of song and sarcasm in full renaissance regalia under the direction of UMC’s Minister of Music, Jeff Jordan.

Last holiday season, Prince Claudius and Princess Christina, second generation in the re-imagined 16th century court, welcomed Christian, the first royal grandson.  And in the always ongoing saga of the English court where time is not necessarily real, granddaughter Chloe managed to join the royals during the ensuing year.  So this year – or more accurately sometime in the late 1550s – the Prince and Princess take a break from parenting to enjoy that familiar local custom, the holiday cruise, leaving the royal young’uns with Paw-Paw, the King, and their grandmother, the Queen.  

What might have been foreseen as a relatively calm observance among only members of the carping court punctuated with outbursts by that inveterate off key songstress, Marquessa Daphne, however, quickly takes a turn into hilarity as the royals of Lipovetskylvania, along with their “little heathens” who unfortunately encountered the castle cat on their last visit, arrive in their native splendor.

Before the fur can fly again, though, their Magniloquent Minister of Mirth and Morale commandeers the court to “assess the exurberance of the assemblage.”  Translating to “gotta see if y’all havin’ a good time” and getting a satisfactory show of approval from audience and court alike, she clears the way for her seemingly odd liege.

Settling in for their five-course supper – including English Onion Soup, Porke Forstier, Black Forest Stuffing, steamed green beans and Shiamese Pudding -  royals, court and subjects all are engaged by the Royal Entertainers taking a page from the cruising prince and princess.  Parading through the audience, “The Shirleys” unpack their baggage to discover, among a variety of renaissance accessories, a very strange, very royal red arrangement of straps and snaps with two prominent protrusions.  First taking the fabric contraption to be ear protectors for very large ears, the royal entertainers by experimentation and process of elimination eventually find another use for it – strapped around the chest of a surprised male guest – as the audience convulses in laughter.  

The many differences between the two sets of royals, though, soon are manifested by their diverse tastes in food which, of course, affect the entire court, particularly the royal chefs.  Shoo-Shoo of Shiam, the easterners’ culinary expert deft with the spices, finds English fare bland, while the stuffy Brit in charge of the court kitchen is loathe to share his domain with any hot sauce hussy who, he complains, could poison them all. 

With the passion of disputing foodies everywhere, the two royal attenders go at it hammer and tongs or, in their case, with meat fork and serving platter, as the royals cheer on their partisans. It takes the royal kids to restore order.

As the youngsters clamor for attention, it is Little Leo, scion of the royal house of Lipo…..vania, who plaintively asks the adults over the tumult about intent of the shared Christmas meal and about true meaning of the holiday commemoration.

With peace reigning, the two royal families conclude their commonalities outnumber their differences and the competing chefs collaborate on a smooth “Shiamese Pudding” highlighted with a hint of peppermint.  There is no room for a rift.  

The court including all of the royals also united in a concert of carols and other Christmas numbers to wrap up their 2011 madrigal offering.  The musical program was highlighted with a lilting rendition of “What Child is This” by Soprano Amanda Jordan and, of course, by one last outburst from the comically constantly out-of-sync warbler, Kathy Straub as the unstoppable Marquessa.

Copyright 2011 Melody Jameson

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