To kick off its 51st season, the Impossible Players wanted to tie together family and the holidays.

So they chose “The Lion in Winter” by James Goldman to as the season's first production.

“The play is actually set at Christmas so we thought it would be a good way to tie into the holidays with the familial aspect of it,” said Brandi Garner, Imps president and the play's blocking director. “And, it’s a good strong show to open the season with.

“It’s a fan favorite, for sure.”

Pueblo audiences can see the show beginning at 7 p.m. today at the Impossible Playhouse, 1201 N. Main St. “The Lion in Winter” continues at 7 p.m. Saturday, as well as on Dec. 7, 8, 14 and 15.

The show tells the story of French royalty Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine and their unruly children Richard the Lionheart, John and Geoffrey.

“It’s the story of just the strange family dynamics that go on within that family,” Garner said.

Imps veterans Chris and Darin Stuart will star as Henry and Eleanor.

With the family at the heart of the story, the Stuarts (husband and wife) were a perfect fit for the lead roles.

“It’s really fun watching them because Henry and Eleanor have such a loving, contentions relationship,” Garner said. “Knowing Chris and Darin the way I do, I see a lot of the lighter side of Henry and Eleanor in their playful banter.

“So, I think that they just bring a sincere, earnestness to their roles.”

Garner was particularly impressed with Chris Stuart.

During auditions, Garner said that Stuart already had nailed the role.

“The first time she read I was stunned and silenced and in awe because she was Eleanor of Aquitaine,” Garner said. “As a director it’s very exciting at auditions, for a cold read, to see someone perfectly encapsulate the role so well.

“That’s a mark of a tremendous actor in my mind.”

The rest of the cast is mostly comprised of stage veterans — with the exception of a couple of featured players from last season and one newcomer.

The cast’s experience will pay off with this latest production, with much of the language of the play written in Shakespearean-type language.

“It’s very lyrical the way Shakespeare is, so it does have that element as well,” Garner said. “That’s one of the things that the actors have said in learning their lines … it’s being able to find that lyrical rhythm that kind of helps those lines stick a little better.”

More experienced players are (usually) better able to master the language.

Garner said she directs the cast to really become immersed in those characters to naturally learn their cadences.

“The better the grasp on the role, the easier that language just naturally comes with them because they’re channeling that person,” she said. “So it becomes lyrically theirs.”

Through rehearsals, the cast has shown as much passion for the play that Garner herself has.

She credits this too as a means for improved performances.

“It’s always exciting  to see the love that I have for a specific show be completely conveyed by the cast,” Garner said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing all the love and passion the actors have put into their roles.”

Much of the cast got the parts they auditioned for.

Garner believes that this adds to each actors’ motivation, propelling them to give their all for each role.

“I think that because you did all the work to get that role, and that’s the role you got, you want to prove why you the role,” Garner said. “You want to show that you are the best, qualified actor for that role.”

With a strong cast, strong material and passion abound, Garner hopes the main message of the story reaches everyone in attendance.

“I hope that they see, through Henry and Eleanor’s eyes, what family is really about,” she said. “Even through the most trying of times, when we don’t feel the love and support of family, it’s always there.”

Tickets are available at impossibleplayers.com and cost $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and military, $10 for students with ID and $5 for children under 8.

llyons@chieftain.com