Bernstein Family Christmas Spectacular offers one last holiday escape at Asheville’s Magnetic Theatre


A scene from the Bernstein Family Christmas Spectacular, featuring Erik Moellering as the flamboyant Latin lover Joaquin, alongside fellow players Glenn Reed, who plays the stoner Jimbo (and Joaquin’s love interest) and Tracy Johnston Crum as Judy Bernstein./ photo by Tempus Fugit Design

This year marks the 10th, and last (at least for now), staging of the Bernstein Family Christmas Spectacular, a raucous, irreverent show at The Magnetic Theatre that’s become a favorite holiday escape over the past decade.

Alas, the holidays in Asheville won’t quite be the same without them.

Remember Judy Bernstein’s ballsy come-ons? Santa’s classic rants? The jacked-up reindeer? How about Krampus and his many nipples? Or Jimbo’s legendary bong rips? So many secrets revealed, long-lost family members found.

The birth of Baby Jesus!

When Chall Gray, Mundy Carter and Karen Stobbe first came together to create the Bernstein show, “we really wanted to present a Christmas show that was edgy and fun and geared toward adults,” says Gray, The Magnetic Theatre’s founding producing director.

“Often this is the most fraught time of year for most people, and we wanted to provide a counter-point,” he says.

Folks responded. And even as the production moved from the Magnetic’s original location on Depot Street to the Asheville Community Theatre’s stage, the Bebe Theatre and then back to the Magnetic’s new theater digs across the Depot street from where the magic all started, the production resonated with Asheville audiences. More sold-out shows than not have followed. (Get your tickets here before they all go.) The show opens Dec. 5.

“I think it helps that we write the script from scratch each year,” says Gray, adding that this year the writers (namely Lucia Del Vecchio – she’s been the heard writer for the past three years, and the director for the past two) asked each actor what they really wanted to see included this year that hadn’t been done in the past.

“The result is very much a Bernstein show, and I can’t wait to see it,” Gray says.

Darren Marshall as a grumpy Santa Claus and Erik Moellering as a nipply Krampus in The Bernstein Family Christmas Spectacular./ Photo by Tempus Fugit Design

It takes an incredible effort to mount such a show, adds a somewhat weary Gray. It starts in April, with a summer full of writing and fall rehearsals. He’s personally put off his own holiday break to give fans the rockin’ raunch they’ve come to expect.

So, too, have the players. Darren Marshall, who plays a grumpy Santa, has been a pillar of the show all 10 years alongside Tracy Johnston Crum, who plays drunky Judy Bernstein. Eric Moellering, with hilarious turns as over-sexed Joaquin, horny Krampus and more, has also been featured in every show.

The “extremely talented ensemble cast brings a lot to the table,” Gray says.

The show has kept up with the times, with ripped-from-the-headlines sharp takes on everything from the Asheville short-term rental scene to presidential pokes. Keep your eyes peeled for a few inside jokes for those who seen past year’s shows. Whatever the joke is, it’s all been done in good fun.

Closing out the decade with one last Bernstein run feels like “a natural ending point,” says Gray, mentioning the busy lives of everyone involved. He says he’s not ruling out the possibility of bringing the show back at some point in the future.

Will this year’s show resolve any story lines of year’s past?

“There are story lines that need resolving?” Gray asks with faux incredulity. “Let me put it this way – we don’t kill everyone at the end.”


Curious November 23, 2019 - 9:36 am

Did former Magnetic Director Steve Samuels have any hand in the Bernstein shows?

Big Al December 12, 2019 - 1:17 pm

None, except for general approval as Artistic Director of the Theatre for the entire 10 years. He did not (so far as I know) act in or direct any of the Bernstein shows and was not one of the series creators. I cannot tell you all of the creative minds involved, but am reasonably sure that Adam Jack Arthur and Rodney Smith (both also of Super Happy Productions shows) were two of the masterminds.

I think I can understand some of the dynamics behind Steve Samuels’ ouster from Magnetic, but it seems to have worked out for the best. His first year co-producing Sublime Theatre has created some excellent plays.

Curious December 12, 2019 - 5:31 pm

That is very helpful. Thanks!

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