BWW Review: CHRISTMAS BY CANDLELIGHT at Candlelight Theatre
Candlelight welcomes in the season with CHRISTMAS BY CANDLELIGHT, showcasing a variety of familiar 'chestnuts' and some not frequently heard. It is a nostalgic look at Christmas, focusing on family, friendship, community, children, and loved ones who are especially missed during the holidays.
While there were several admirable solos and duets, kudos must be extended to music director Clint Williams for the close harmonies on the choral numbers, especially in the spirituals "O Holy Night" and "O Come All Ye Faithful".
Julia Kershetsky opened the production displaying her lovely soprano in "Silver Bells", accompanied by Maureen Cotellese, Peter Campbell, Jared Calhoun and Cindy Zern. To further get the full house on opening night in the mood, this was followed with "We Need A Little Christmas" by the entire troupe. That tune has become a stand-alone seasonal favorite from the musical MAME.
An amusing segment - using the TV monitor - had veteran actor Max Redman portray an on-air weatherman complete with an 'exclusive' forecast! This was very well written and well received. The dude definitely has a future in meteorology.
Director Bob Kelly broke the 3 dozen selections into themed medleys: Snow, Yule Rock, Santa, International, ending with the aforementioned classics. The majority of the songs were sung and staged with the entire company, most notably in the Snow Medley, featuring "Let It Snow". "Winter Wonderland", It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas" highlighted Hallie Hargus, Cindy Zern, Tori Healy and the quartet made the most of their spotlight.
What is Christmas without children? Kelly and Williams discovered the perfect song for Beasley Cate White, Julia Miller, Scott Angelides and Colin Zern in "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas". It's delightful to have parents in the show with their kids. Bob Miller and Cindy Zern are proud of their offspring, Aisle Say! And speaking of old chestnuts, Miller did a fine job in "The Christmas Song".
Tiffany Christopher reprised her "Santa Baby" from last year's show. She has a powerful and melodic voice and displayed just enough sexiness in the song. She had about 8 Santa's in the production number but I imagine they were all entranced, as was the audience with her charisma. She led the ensemble in "Do You Hear What I Hear".
Colleen Clancy's solo, "Grown Up Christmas List" was a show stopper. Clancy has great stage presence and a beautiful voice.
Candlelight triple threat Anthony Connell did a bravura rendition of "I'll Be Home For Christmas". Superb voice and heartfelt acting. Maureen Cotellese's "Merry Christmas Darling" was memorable. Lindsay Mauck, whose luminescent smile adds candlepower to whatever Candlelight show she is in, sang a wonderfully sentimental 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas".
Choreographer Jenn Polish did an outstanding job in creating so many diverse arrangements with so many classic songs. "Sleigh Ride" and "Jingle Bell Rock" were two of the many standouts, along with the frenetic and dynamic sequences in the International medley.
One scene near the conclusion of Act !'s Santa Medley was quite poignant. One of the men dressed as Santa took off his costume. He was a returning soldier in uniform and actors playing his wife and daughter embraced him in hugs. Nice touch!
Staging on "Little Drummer Boy", "Joy To The World" and a few others was dramatically static. Additionally, Director Kelly had his charges display solemn expressions in those numbers, giving me an image of either The Stepford Wives or Mark Zuckerberg resembling Star Trek's character Data before a Congressional committee last year. With all the joy associated with the season - and displayed by this engaging cast - this austere demeanor was unnecessarily robotic.
I am not sure why the actors were instructed to recite the composers of some of the songs. Oh, and while Aisle Say is picking nits, it seems a trifle mawkish (no, not Lindsay Mauckish) to have the actors thank the audience for coming, not once but three times. ZZzz.
Costumer Tara Bowers had her work cut out for her with this large cast and so many songs. She did a thoughtful job and her choices enhanced the atmosphere the songs created.
Through December 22. Candlelight Theatre 302.475.2313
Next Up: CABARET Jan 18. The emcee is played by Dann Dunn, who choreographed Judy Garland "World's Greatest Entertainer". Dann does dance!