Review: CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT at Pioneer Theatre Company Could Become a Perennial Holiday Favorite

CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT plays through December 16, 2023.

By: Dec. 04, 2023
Review: CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT at Pioneer Theatre Company Could Become a Perennial Holiday Favorite
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Pioneer Theatre Company’s not-to-be-missed production of the brand-new musical CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT is worthy of becoming a perennial holiday favorite, perfectly delivering feel-good nostalgia in a beautifully wrapped contemporary package. 

According to the theatre, “While the musical had its world premiere at the Goodspeed in Connecticut during the 2022 holiday season, the show’s creators continue to develop and fine-tune the work, making the PTC mounting an all-new experience for audiences—and the only production of CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT in the U.S. during the 2023 holiday season.” 

CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT (book by Patrick Pacheco and Erik Forrest Jackson, music by Jason Howland, lyrics by Amanda Yesnowitz) is based on a non-musical 1945 film.  Single aspiring writer Liz Sandor is struggling to make it in 1940s NYC while making a difference, so when the opportunity arises to write a magazine column from the point of view of a happy housewife, it’s too good to pass up.  But when her publisher arranges a surprise holiday stay for a war hero at the country home she’s writing about, will she be exposed as a fraud?

The book is structured well with elements of traditional Christmas musicals, romantic comedies, and even mystery thrillers, all without being derivative.  The characters are well drawn and easy to root for, and although the outcome may be obvious, that doesn’t take away from the pleasure in arriving there.

Grammy and Emmy Award winner Jason Howland is one of the most underrated Broadway composers, having written the brilliant scores for LITTLE WOMEN and PARADISE SQUARE, and his work here does not disappoint.  Every song is catchy enough to become a new classic while also admirably driving character development. 

Alyse Alan Louis has a voice like a belting Christmas angel, and her no-nonsense persona is just the right fit for Liz.

Eric William Morris as Victor Beecham is rough around the edges with a heart of gold, and RJ Vaillancourt as his brother Dudley has just the right blend of goofiness and heart.

Tiffany Denise Hobbs as Gladys Higgenbottom and Christian Magby as Jefferson Jones are both magnetic and sincere. 

The pleasant direction by Shelley Butler and choreography by Karen Azenberg are smoothly and lovingly implemented by the fabulous cast, which also features David Girolmo as Felix Bassenak, Linda Mugleston as Norah O’Connor, Jamen Nanthakumar as Mario De Luca, and Gerry McIntyre as Alexander Yardley.

The incredible set by Lex Liang is focused on an immense cutaway of a fully decked out farmhouse, lit warmly by designer Robert Aguilar with handsome touches of color.  The eye-catching costumes by Liang and hair/makeup by Cynthia Johnson are just right for the period and characters.

There’s really very little to be improved, although the stakes could be raised at times—sometimes things fall into place a bit too easy.  There is rarely fear that the trick will be found out despite the fact that Liz and company’s plan is embarrassingly half-baked (especially for such intelligent people, despite the lack of time for preparation).  If instead they think some things through with a tightrope wire that must be walked, especially when Liz pretends to cook the Christmas Eve dinner, there’s a greater opportunity for hilarious screwball comedy as things goes wrong and for more investment in the characters pulling off their attempted feat as they’re on the edge of being found out.  It may be a tall order, but it would add a whole other level of entertainment to a musical that is otherwise near pitch-perfect.

What a Christmas gift Pioneer Theatre Company has given the Utah theatre community!  It’s a world-class production of a wonderful new show that deserves success at the highest levels.  Here’s hoping that its holiday wish list for a future life will be fulfilled.     

CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT plays through December 16, 2023. For tickets, call the box office at 801-581-6961 or visit www.pioneertheatre.org.

Photo Credit: BW Productions




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