Home for the Holidays Play Review

16 Dec 2023

Do you need a little Christmas spirit? Are you oozing with Christmas spirit and longing to be with likeminded revelers? Are you, like me, somewhere in the middle? If any of these sound like you, make your way to Home for the Holidays, presented by Mountain Theatre Company. I found myself smiling the entire time, part nostalgic, part just good old-fashioned fun.

Scott Daniel, Director, Writer and Orchestrator, did a great job keeping a steady rhythm throughout. Ensemble songs and solos bounced back and forth with precision, as did the light-hearted and the serious, allowing for a reminder of both the exuberance and the solemnity of the season. The choreography felt natural and seamless and fine-tuned for each number. Costume and hair design, also under Daniel’s duties, hit the mark. It is a wonder how Daniel keeps so many balls in the air.

Musically, the solos and duets stole the show. A standout early on was Sam Alan Johnson with “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch.” His voice was perfection and transported me to my own childhood, sitting in front of the television aghast at that mean old Mr. Grinch. Troy Serena accompanied Johnson in dance and he, too, brought droplets of theatre magic to the moment. Johnson and Serena were also outstanding in “Peace on Earth” and “Little Drummer Boy.”

The story follows a group of North Pole Elves in their final rehearsals for their annual Christmas show, which will be broadcast live across the globe. As far as characters, two stood out: Mrs. Claus (Lori Nielsen), whose multiple talents shined throughout, and Swatch (Macy Watts), the stage manager trying to keep all the elves in line and the show on track. Watts’ voice, consternation and transformation delighted.

Nielsen played the piano in several scenes while also managing to star and sing. She commanded the stage in that sweet but no-nonsense way only Mrs. Claus can manage. It was Nielsen who kept the show intact and cohesive, always bringing us back to the story, which served mainly as a backdrop to the musical numbers.

Watts, too, kept the story alive every time she stomped back on stage, all business and angst, and told those playful elves to get back to work, a job not unlike herding cats. Watts also shone brightly in her solo, “A Hand for Mrs. Claus.” Her voice came as a surprise in its tenderness and beauty and absolute lack of gruff. I could have lingered there much longer.

“Oh, Holy Night” was a showstopper as well. Emanuel Carrero nailed it. His performance demanded a moment of quiet reflection. For sheer fun, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” was a highlight. The audience was all in, laughing and singing along. In fact, every song in the play served its purpose and added to the evening. “Sleigh Ride” and “Joy” (Erin Leigh Knowles), “Santa Baby” (Kate Jarecki), “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (Audrey Button) and “Blue Christmas” (Troy Serena) were all noteworthy. There was also something magical about “Carol of the Bells.” This number gave me chills and allowed for a celebration of the immense talent on that stage. It is all too easy to forget this is happening in our tiny hamlet. How lucky we are to enjoy such quality theatre.

The lighting design (Hannah Wien), sound design (Bo Garrard), and scenic design (Tom Hansen) worked beautifully and enhanced the performances, never too much or too little. As an audience member, the lighting, sound, and set design bring us into the story – into the world painstakingly created on that stage. If everything goes right, most of us do not think of lighting, sound or set at all, but if it goes wrong, it can ruin a show. Absolutely nothing went wrong, so hats off to Wien, Garrard and Hansen, the unsung heroes of theatre.

The play is bookended by a variation of “Celebration,” which pretty much sums the evening up. It was a celebration of the season, each other and just plain having a little fun. It is a remedy for the blues and a landing ground for joy. It is for all ages and for anyone who appreciates a good time. Enjoy!

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