by Evan McKenna
“Company for the Holidays: A Christmas Spectacular” – Directed by Zoe Bradford and Jordie Saucerman, Music arranged by Steve Bass and Chris Hansen, music direction and several original arrangements by Steve Bass, choreography by Sally Ashton Forrest, costume design by Kathryn Ridder, lighting design by Adam Clark, set design by Ryan Barrow and James A. Valentin. Through 12/17
While Black Friday deals and long lines at the Christmas Tree Shop remind us that December is almost here, gifts and Christmas decorations don’t always spark that genuine holiday spirit. It’s family, song, and traditions that give Christmas its true essence, and that’s what Company Theatre’s “Company for the Holidays: A Christmas Spectacular,” which premiered Friday, illustrates so well, making it the perfect entré into the Holiday season.
Instead of weaving music into a narrative, the first act is simply a compilation of songs and scenes, taking the audience through an eclectic blend of Yuletide tunes, like “Santa Baby,” “All I Want for Christmas is You”, as well as standards like “White Christmas” and “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”. The ensemble on the floor was a combination of rock, jazz, and concert musicians – who also came equipped with sleigh bells – that shifted with ease from an intricate classical style, to big band swing, Sinatra-sounding moments. Both solo performances and chorus numbers occur as scenes from works such as The Nutcracker and the Frosty the Snowman story are performed on stage.
The second half of the show opens with an original play, A Child’s Christmas in Bahston, a comedy by Company Theatre Artistic Director Zoe Bradford. The play tells a story of holiday mishaps and clash of two very different worlds: Boston’s North Shore and the South Shore. It is told in flashback by a man recollecting his Cohasset family’s Christmas Eve with their Revere relatives. Though the play is chock-full of Bostonian humor, and relatable enough to a New England Christmas to keep the audience feeling connected, some of the humor feels a little too personalized.
Following the play but remaining part of the same act is the Gospel retelling of the Nativity story. Images of Mary, Jesus, and salvation play on the stage screen as the band returns with “Mary Did You Know,” “O Holy Night,” and exciting upbeat gospel similar-sounding to composer Alan Menken’s animated Disney classics. While this part of the show was unexpected, closing with Christian tradition felt appropriate considering that, to many, Christ is the most important part of Christmas. For more information see http://www.companytheatre.com