Bully! Humbug! A new family-friendly play inspired by both President Theodore Roosevelt and Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol— opened Saturday at the Kennedy Center.
Written by Tom Isbell, directed by Gregg Henry and with songs by political satirist Mark Russell, “Teddy Roosevelt and the Ghostly Mistletoe— tells the fictional tale of Roosevelt’s children trying to persuade him to get a Christmas tree for the White House. When he refuses (for environmental reasons), his children concoct a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come to teach their father a lesson.
The play is a holiday sequel to the 2006 Kennedy Center production “Teddy Roosevelt and the Treasure of Ursa Major— and features the same three children who starred in the original.
“They had amazing chemistry,— Henry said of the three cast members who play Roosevelt’s children, Ethel, Kermit and Archie. “To get them back together for this was just a wonderful gift.—
The play is the fourth show produced by the Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences in association with the White House Historical Association. Explaining the association’s involvement, Henry said, “We commissioned a series of plays that deal with White House history and residents.—
Though the plot of the story is fictional, Henry says that nevertheless, the group provided important historical information to the production.
“They’ve been very involved,— Henry said. “We relied on them heavily for research and historical accuracy.—
For example, the White House Historical Association was able to provide extensive and detailed information concerning the everyday lives of the Roosevelt family and the “shenanigans— of the Roosevelt children.
When asked why the Roosevelt family makes such good fodder, Henry said it was “the fact that they had a menagerie of pets, the fact that they caused all this havoc at the White House — there was enough pop culture lore about them and how much of a family man [Roosevelt] was. It just seemed natural.—
“Then you just add how colorful [Roosevelt] was, period,— Henry added. “He’s theatrical no matter how you slice him.—
The play runs through Dec. 30.