BWW Review: Reagle Music Theatre's CHRISTMAS TIME
Conceived and Directed by Robert J. Eagle; Music Direction, Paul S. Katz; Choreography, Susan M. Chebookjian; Production Stage Manager, Lori E. Baruch; Scenic Design, Robert Moody; Lighting Design, David Wilson; Wardrobe Coordinator, Joe Michienzie; Conductor, Jeffrey P. Leonard
Soloists/Featured Performers: R. Glen Michell, Joanne Campbell, Jean-Alfred Chavier, Robert Cincotta, Jean Grace, Herb Philpott, BriAnna Maguire, Scott Abreu, Paul Marchesiani, Gary Vincent, Greta DiGiorgio, Daniel Forest Sullivan, Buddy Bergeron, Korinne Robertson, David Gerrie, Sean Harrington, Malik Kuziwa, Dillon Longmoore, Stephaniei Chancey, Julia Bentley, Lisa D'Agostino, Hannah Donovan, Rachel Donovan, Danielle Gills, Katie Hanlon, Maggie Sabello, Briana Scafidi, Carl Cincotta, Matt Kiernan, Michael Richardson
Performances: December 14 @ 7:30 pm, December 15-16 @ 1:00 pm & 5:00 pm at Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston, Robinson Theatre, Waltham High School, 617 Lexington Street, Waltham, MA; Box Office 781-891-5600 or www.reaglemusictheatre.com
Rest assured, ye merry gentlemen (and women) that Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston knows how to put on an all-encompassing, radiant, holiday musical extravaganza. The 30th Anniversary Edition Christmas Time, conceived and directed by Founder and Producing Artistic Director Robert J. Eagle, is a pageant for all ages that has stood the test of time. May it run for another thirty years!
A brass quartet playing Christmas carols in the lobby sets the mood as the crowd flows in, warming everyone up for the sounds of the full live orchestra, conducted by Jeffrey P. Leonard. Following a prelude sung by guest artist Sarah Pfisterer and a processional of the 36-voice adult choir, the curtain rises on a series of familiar scenes with singers and dancers performing holiday favorites. The whirlwind tour travels from Christmas in New York to Santa's Workshop, the Boston Public Garden, City Sidewalks, and a shop named for local fashionista Yolanda.
A team of twenty precision tappers, fronted by Assistant Choreographer Korinne Robertson, does an excellent faux-Rockettes routine in ice-blue, white fur-trimmed skating outfits, before a backdrop of the rink at Central Park. Children take center stage as Santa's Elves, Santas in Training under the tutelage of Rick Hilsabeck, and an energetic gang of Raggedy Anns and Andies who spell out a greeting with giant blocks. Waltham High School freshman BriAnna Maguire is a lithe and lovely Clara in the arms of Scott Abreu as the Captain in the "Teddy Bears' Nutcracker." Yolanda's is the locale for the last-minute rush of shoppers where Greta DiGiorgio and Daniel Forest Sullivan lead the harried clerks singing "12 Days to Christmas" (from Bock and Harnick's She Loves Me), and Pfisterer and Hilsabeck combine for a natural, relaxed rendition of "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year." Kermit the Frog (voiced by Buddy Bergeron) makes an appearance and the children in the audience are invited to the stage for a sing-along. A large chorus of the littlest cast members sings "Jingle, Jingle, Jingle," and Santa Claus makes an appearance just before intermission.
Act Two highlights more of the traditional Christmas fare with the adult chorus offering a sleigh full of carols and solos from each of the guest artists. The pièce de résistance is "The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers," twenty-four precision dancers recreating the trademark choreography of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, ending with the painstakingly slow collapse of the line. For the finale, the crystalline quality of Pfisterer's voice is an asset to the reenactment of "The Nativity" with Mary, Joseph, shepherds, angels, and the Wise Men portrayed in a dignified tableau behind a scrim.
Christmas Time is a feast for the eyes with outstanding costumes (special kudos to those in "Victorian Christmas") and beautifully painted backdrops specific to each of the scenes. Scenic Designer Robert Moody and Lighting Designer David Wilson create a festive atmosphere and guarantee that all of the 65 young elves, 47 middle and high schoolers, and the entire cast of nearly 200 performers are shown off to their best advantage. The lone fly in the ointment is the unreliable sound system that is sometimes muddied, buzzing, or momentarily cutting out mid-song. Other than that, everything goes like clockwork, with rapid scene changes and everyone in their appointed places at the appointed times. However, they've been doing this for three decades and it shows – talk about precision! As long as Christmas comes every year, there should always be an audience for Reagle's Christmas Time.
Photo credit: Jan Nargi (Parade of the Wooden Soldiers, Santa's Elves)