Lions Den Theatre beats Elon Musk to Mars again this year

The Halifax theatre company will be celebrating the holiday season a little differently this year as it presents a new audio release of the cult-classic Santa Claus Conquers The Martians.

A screenshot from the 1964 film Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Now in the public domain, Lions Den Theatre will present a more adult take on the holiday cult film.
A screenshot from the 1964 film Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Now in the public domain, Lions Den Theatre will present a more adult take on the holiday cult film.

Elon Musk may be dreaming of a crewed flight to Mars by the year 2024, but Lions Den Theatre isn’t waiting. The Halifax-based theatre company will once again celebrate the holiday season with its own visit to the red planet, this time with a new audio release of one of its most popular shows, Santa Claus Conquers The Martians.

Based on the 1964 “yuletide science fiction fantasy” movie of the same name, it is a film that has consistently appeared on lists of the worst films ever made. Developing a cult-like following after its first appearance on the Comedy Central series Mystery Science Theater 3000 in 1991, it now makes annual appearances on the channel during the holiday season.

Santa Claus Conquers The Martians is the improbable story of the King of Mars, who leads a small team to Earth to kidnap Santa Claus and bring him back to the red planet to help cheer up the Martian children.

While its source material was definitely family-friendly, with the film now in the public domain, Lions Den’s has taken it into a slightly more adult direction.

“We could have gone with a straight adaptation and geared it toward children, but the real fun in the story is the stuff that is not said in the original film,” says Lions Den artistic director Keith Morrison. “It became apparent early on that we could tell the same story with the same characters but speak to an older and more politically charged audience. Rather than produce another sentimental holiday-themed show, we could speak to those who might not buy into the Dickens, Capra view of Christmas.”

The Lions Den Theatre production of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians features the voice talents of Colleen MacIsaac, Jesse Robb, Mark Penny and Dan Bray show in photo above from the company's 2015 live audio performance.
The Lions Den Theatre production of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians features the voice talents of Colleen MacIsaac, Jesse Robb, Mark Penny and Dan Bray (photo above from the company’s 2015 live audio performance).

The fourth-year the Halifax theatre company will produce Santa Claus Conquers The Martians, it is a show that both cast and audience members eagerly await each year.

“We’ve done a lot of shows, but Martians seem to be one that most people like to see brought back,” says Morrison. “There are a number of people who haven’t been to any of our other shows but have seen all three versions of Martians. They might not be into Lions Den, but they sure love Martians.”

Santa Claus Conquers The Martians follows in the footsteps of other audio plays from Lions Den, who began performing live audio plays with an old-time radio version of It’s A Wonderful Life at Halifax’s Bus Stop Theatre in 2013. The group has since produced live audio versions of A Christmas Carol, Arsenic and Old Lace and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Most recently it created a true-crime audio series based on the original 1893 trial transcript of the Lizzie Borden murders.

Due to the pandemic,  the group started producing audio drama for online listeners in the spring of 2020. Since that time, the company has featured over 70 current or former Nova Scotia-based actors. In keeping with that mandate, Santa Claus Conquers The Martians will feature a cast of Halifax and Cape Breton born or based actors.

“We planned on some live shows, but our hands were tied by COVID,” says Morrison. “We soon realized that the internet allowed us to reach a larger audience and, more importantly, work with actors living throughout the world.”

Santa Claus Conquers The Martians will premiere on the Lions Den YouTube channel on December 17.

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