BWW Review: A SPECTACULAR CHRISTMAS SHOW at Musical Theater Heritage
Musical Theater Heritage at Crown Center offers its tenth-annual original "Spectacular Christmas Show." Locally written and produced holiday shows are sometimes times prone to hyperbole. That is not the case with this offering from Director Tim Scott, Choreographer Kenny Personett, and Musical Director Jeremy Watson. This particular performance is SPECTACULAR in almost every way a show can be outstanding. The 2017 "MTH Spectacular Christmas Show" shines.
The music is mostly familiar. The audience enjoys holiday favorites and related Broadway and film standards. The show begins with "Getting' In The Mood For Christmas," and charges through "Winter Wonderland," "Seasons of Love" from Sondheim's "Rent" and Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" among others. The second act starts with an inventive Jeremy Watson arranged and performed "Jingle Bells," a version of the "12 Days of Christmas" not likely heart before, "Bless The Lord" from "Godspell," "O Holy Night," and finishing up by "Wishing Us A Merry Christmas."
The arrangements selected and/or created for this show are musically complex and delightfully surprising. The cast of nine and the Santa's band of five are a total package and a complete ensemble. Musical solos are distributed throughout the cast. Singling out any particular singer would insult all the others. All are excellent and with varied approaches to song.
One singer may have the lead in a particular number, but his or her cast mates join to create an unusual and very nice blended professional sound. The singers are Taylor Avazpour, Katie Bartow, Sydney Benton, Amy Hurrelbrink, Lily Nicholas, Chris Owen, Erik Sobbe, Fisher Stewart, and Morgan Walker.
Original script by Tim Scott is tight and is evenly distributed throughout. Exceptional attention has been paid to stage pictures, cast focus, a complex and professional lighting plan, a very nice and flexible setting, and some intricate choreography. I first noticed Kenny Personett as an ensemble member in a production of "West Side Story." He stood out because of his unusual ability to focus his character. It is a talent that he has clearly passed on with the choreography to this cast. Not only are the steps inventive, but the movement schemes tend to be individual in their designs and for each of the musical numbers.
The band is Jeremy Watson on piano, Kyle Brown on drums, Joe Levens on guitar and banjo, Jacob Roemer on string bass, and Brandon Wilkins on reeds. Jeremy Watson, the musical director, always cracks me up. He is a huge guy with personality to match and talent to spare. He can easily be imagined as the second banana-bandleader on one of late night TV shows.
The little stuff that you unconsciously appreciate, but seldom identify, makes this annual entertainment excellent. It isn't easy to make holiday music sound fresh in addition to being well performed. These folks manage it year after year. This year's "Spectacular Christmas Show" surpasses its earlier cousins.
"The Spectacular Christmas Show" continues at MTH Theater inside Crown Center through December 23. Tickets are available at www.musicaltheaterheritage.com or by telephone at 816-221-6987.
Photos courtesy of MTH and Larry F. Levenson