Theatre Mirror Reviews - "A Christmas Survival Guide"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2005 by Tony Annicone

"A Christmas Survival Guide"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Mill River Dinner Theater's current show is "A Christmas Survival Guide". It is a fun filled musical about how five people will survive the holiday season by following this guidebook. The voiceover narrator describes what to do to make the Christmas season festive while the five performers sing different songs throughout the two act show. Director Chuck PetitBon and music director Dan Zabinski and their five talented singers give the audience a show filled with a mixture of comic numbers and touching ballads, helping to get them into the Christmas spirit without having to sit through Christmas Carol for the hundredth time

Chuck chose some of the best vocalists around for this show and their splendid voices and acting talents shine through. Dan not only is the music director but he plays the keyboards for the show and acts and sings in it, too. The set consists of several Christmas trees with gifts under them and green and red curtains for the background. Dan is onstage with his guitarist, Mike Benoit and his drummer, Sarah Dandurand. They do a wonderful job with all the musical numbers including some jazzy, scat numbers. The festive costumes are by Chuck's lovely wife, Marcia who is also the producer, Gert Dumont and the cast members. Stage manager,Cherry Cartier and her stage crew members, Psey, Kris Aponte and David Graf keep the props and scene changes flowing beautifully.

Each member of the cast gets to shine in their numbers whether they are ballads or up tempo and they do some interacting with the audience, too. The five part harmony in the group numbers including "Carol of the Bells'', "Waiting for the Man with the Bag", "The Happy New Year Blues and "The Greatest Gift" (which is the most touching emotional number in the show) is excellent. Kami Crary gets to show off her comedic side in "The Twelve Steps of Christmas" where she sings what her therapist gave her as she eventually freaks out about it and gets to tug your heartstrings with a gorgeous ballad called "Christmas Eve" where she sings about the traditions of gift giving from her mother and dad. She also has comedic moments with Tom Lavallee in "The Best Christmas Ever" where they sing about their first one together and eventually hate everything the other one decorates the tree with and in the Santa segment where she pays money to rant and rave at Santa because she paid for it, ending up with a date at the end of her ranting and raving. Tom also gets to show off his fantastic tenor voice in "The Santa Fantasy" where he sings about finally getting to play Santa and in "O Holy Night" with wonderful harmony from the rest of the cast. Michele Graf shows off her strong soprano voice in comedic songs, "Hitch a Ride" where she sings about riding with Santa and in "Surabaya Santa'' where she plays Mrs. Claus who wants to leave Santa because she is bored. She shows off her tender side in "Little Girl Blue" where she wants to meet someone to cheer her up. RIC sophomore, Caleb Jacobson shows off his tenor voice in group numbers and gets to sing a comic and jazzy version of "Silver Bells" with cell phones ringing and other noises interrupting him and in "Sleigh Ride" with Kami and Michele as they swing around in arm chairs pretending to be on a ride with a runaway horse. He also imitates Elvis while clad in a white jumpsuit while singing "Santa Claus is Back in Town" copying the Elvis snarl perfectly. The final cast member is Diane Petit who's strong soprano voice comes through in the group numbers as well as in ''All Those Christmas Cliches" and in the funny "Silver and Gold" song where she drags Tom around the stage and plays a tug of war with Michele and her tugging him back and forth while singing "Felix Navidad". These fabulous performers voices blend together superbly, creating a joyous sound. Add a wonderful before the show dinner cooked by Chuck to the evening's entertainment. The dinner includes an all you can eat chicken vegetable soup, warm Italian bread, string beans and carrots, oven baked white and sweet potatoes as well as five different entrees. I had the stuffed breast of chicken with wild rice, topped with home made gravy and for dessert, an apple turnover with caramel sauce. So for some topnotch dinnertainment, be sure to catch this wonderful alternative to Christmas Carol at Mill River and you too will learn how to enjoy the holidays with "A Survival Guide to Christmas".

"A Christmas Survival Guide" (11 November - 18 December)
MILL RIVER DINNER THEATER
499 High Street, CENTRAL FALLS RI
1 (401) 721-0909

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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