Feature: 2022 HOLIDAY SHOWS In Columbus

Three holiday shows in 24 hours left critic slimed with Christmas spirit

By: Dec. 19, 2022
Feature: 2022 HOLIDAY SHOWS In Columbus
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'Twas the fortnight before Christmas and all through the city,

The streets were aligned with holiday shows without pity.

With a scowl on my face and a spirit most unpleasant,

I was visited by three ghostly shows of the past, future, and present

I will proudly admit it. I don't like Christmas shows. I once videotaped HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS and purposely stopped taping right about the time the Grinch was about to dump the presents off the edge of Mount Crumpet. I empathize with Miles Finch and Mr. Potter more than I do with Buddy the Elf and George Bailey.

So for me, the prospect of seeing three Christmas shows in one weekend seemed about as promising as eating a two-pound tub of cotton candy while watching the Hallmark channel. I set off, with my lumps of coal in hand, with hopes of writing bah humbug reviews.

I was sorely disappointed.

Down to the Garden Theater, the ghost made me begin,

With the Short North Stage's production of WHITE CHRISTMAS by Irving Berlin

The show was choreographed with style and with care

With prancing and dancing worthy of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire

Short North Stage's re-creation of WHITE CHRISTMAS is like a holiday black and white movie: classic with a sprinkling of nostalgia, but still as relatable as more current offerings. The four leads, Thomas Christopher Warren (Bob Wallace), Jorge Echeverria and Chaz Coffin (Phil Davis), Keeley Anne McCormick (Judy Haynes), and Dionysia Williams (Betsy Haynes), bring life to the 1954 film version that starred Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. (Coffin plays the Davis role from Dec. 1-18 and Echeverria from Dec. 22-Jan. 1).

The show about two Army buddies who join forces with a sister act to save a Vermont ski lodge runs for a month (Dec. 1 to Jan. 1) at the Garden Theater (1187 North High Street)

In this Edward Carignan directed, two-act musical, the precise tap dancing compliment Berlin tunes like "Happy Holidays," "Count Your Blessings," and "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm." Linda Kinneson Roth (Martha Watson), Doug Joseph (Gen. Henry Waverly), Lucy Robinson (Susan Waverly), J'Quay Gibbs (Mike Nulty), and Luke Bovenizer (Ezekiel Foster) provide comic relief to this show.

The ghost of Christmas present then whisked me away

To a walking tour of UPTOWN SCROOGE Down Westerville Way

Through the shops and streets of Westerville we did fly,

Bah humbugging the shoppers and making a little one cry

Good Medicine Productions give an interesting twist to Charles Dickens' holiday staple, THE CHRISTMAS CAROL. Resident Scrooges (everyone who bought tickets is labeled as Scrooge) plays a role in this walking tour of Westerville businesses, which serve as the performing spaces for the show. Guides like Kristie Koehler Vuocolo (one of a handful guides for the tours) are joined by three ghosts and pursued relentlessly by Tiny Tim (Jasmyn Moran), Peter (Duce Black), and Belinda (Susanna Mylin) from stop to stop.

The uniqueness of the show is not just limited to the mile long stage. The actors, dressed as clowns in 18th Century clothing, interact with their audience as well as any hapless passerby. While it is mostly a comedy, the guide tells true stories from their lives that mirror the story. Some are funny, others sad, and all of them are poignant.

Often each scene would have a theme. For instance, in one stop, the theme is fear. Our guide pulls out a tape measurer and separates herself from an audience member by the CDC mandated six feet. She then asks if she could sit closer and then oversaturates her hands with sanitizer and dons a face mask. After delivering a few lines, the guide abruptly stops and asks if she could sit a little closer. Upon receiving permission, she then uses more hand sanitizer and puts on gloves, a face shield, and a haz-med suit.

The 90-minute tour raises money for Good Medicine Productions, which brings comedic performances to nursing homes and pediatric patients with the goal of relieving anxiety, stress and depression associated with hospital visits. UPTOWN SCROOGE runs from Nov. 27-Dec. 18 in Westerville.

Finally, we were taken to the Lincoln by the ghost of the future

To THE HAPPY ELF with music by Harry Connick Junior

The show was filled with singing, dancing, and jazz riffs

Which made up for the bad puns and holes in the script

Mistaking THE HAPPY ELF, as a musical version of the Will Ferrell vehicle, ELF would be like choosing the Jim Carrey version of THE GRINCH over the Dr. Seuss classic, THE GRINCH WHO STOLE CHRISTMAS.

That being said, the Columbus Children's Theater's version of the Harry Connick Jr. musical is not devoid of charm. The show runs Dec. 10-23 at the Lincoln Theater (769 E. Long Street in downtown Columbus.)

Eubie the Elf (Will Macke), a hyperactive ball of kinetic energy and spontaneous happiness, runs afoul of his grumpy boss Norbert (Colton Weiss) because of his overwhelming Christmas spirit and his lack of work ethic. When the two compete for a spot on Santa's sleigh team, Norbert makes sure Eubie is reassigned to the thankless task of managing the naughty list.

Eubie tries to curry Santa's favor by getting the entire town of Bluesville off the red-suited one's naughty list. He befriends its resident sourpuss Molly (Keegan Hardin), a sulking preteen whose parents are perpetually too busy to notice her or to celebrate the holidays. Together with his friends Hamm (Aaron Natarelli) and Gilda (Erin McQuay), Eubie saves the town of Bluesville from permanent residence in Santa's list.

Macke's energy, Hardin's eye-rolling attitude, and the beautifully choreography of Myles Lawson keep the show rolling along. The two -act musical has the requisite number of songs about Christmas ("Two Scoops of Christmas" and "Christmas Day", and tunes about friendship ("Three"), as well as the very unChristmasy, but aptly named, "The Poop Hole Song." Conductor and keyboard player Tony Richards and his band of Robert Brooks (reeds), Miles Smith (trumpet), Luke Furniss (trombone), Meredith Eshelman (bass) and Drew Martin (drums) bring a jazzy feel to Connick Jr.'s playlist.

The glow of the shows behind me, I returned to the present

I felt a strange warmth in my chest that was mostly pleasant.

My heart of stone might have melted or so people say

But something magical happened as we approach Christmas day

These holiday shows will brighten anyone's day.

See them soon before they disappear or just fade away


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