Company Theatre's holiday show this year are two one act shows. The first half of their production is "A Christmas Survival Guide", a fun filled musical about how five people will survive the holiday season by following this guidebook complete with a filmed video of the authors describing what do to do from the pesky 174 more days till Christmas starting on July 4th. The second half is "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" which is based on a book written by Barbara Robinson in 1972. It focuses on the poorly-behaved children of the Herdman family, who discover the true meaning of Christmas through participation in a church play about the birth of Jesus. The first half is directed by Michael Joseph and Sally Ashton Forrest while the second half is directed by Zoe Bradford and Jordie Saucerman. The setting for Survival Guide is a winter wonderland set with a gigantic wreath on the back curtain designed by Marc Ewart and a huge sleigh built by James Valentin. Exterior church settings are on either side of the stage while a fence with snow is used for the performers to sit on during some of their numbers. The second half sets consist of Sunday school benches, a small stage on the upstage area, a blackboard in the center of the stage and takes place in and around Holy Nativity Episcopal Church, Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, circa 1975 and even has a flying angel who is afraid of heights. The clever mixture of both shows leads to a show with a mixture of comic numbers and touching ballads in Act 1 and learning the true meaning of Christmas with a miraculous return of the lights at the birth scene of Jesus. It helps the audience get into the true holiday spirit without having to sit through Christmas Carol for the hundredth time.
Michael chooses some of the best vocalists around for this Survival Guide and Sally choreographs them splendidly throughout. He leads a wonderful five piece orchestra for the first half and plays religious songs for the pageant show. Each member of this cast gets to shine in their numbers whether they are ballads or up tempo and they do some songs with the audience, too. The five part harmony in the group numbers including "Carol of the Bells", "Everybody's Waiting for the Man with the Bag" ( a 1940's style song complete with dance steps by Sally), "We Wish a You a Merry Christmas", TV Christmas Medley, "Sleigh Ride" (which is hilarious as John King drives the sleigh as they run over people on the runaway sleigh with a film of various winter scenes in the background) and "The Greatest Gift" which is the most emotional number in the show) is excellent. Gorgeous brunette, Aimee Doherty shows off her lovely soprano voice in "All Those Christmas Cliches" where she sings about snow on Christmas Eve, chestnuts roasting on an open fire and in "Christmas Eve", a sentimental song about the traditions of gift giving from her mother and father. She also has comic moments,too especially as she rides a bicycle across the stage during "Silver Bells". ( I have reviewed Aimee in many shows including "Company" and "Cabaret".) John King, an equity actor, gets to show off his strong tenor voice in a comic version of "Silver Bells" which is done at different tempos as the modern day cell phones clamor and ring while he tugs at your heartstrings in the final song of the religious songs and his voice soars off the charts.( I have also reviewed John before in "Company", "Aida" and Miss Saigon") Emilee Dennis, a beautiful blonde, 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 her sexy, flirty side in "I'd Like to Hitch a Ride with Santa". (I reviewed Emilee in "42nd Street" in Foxboro a couple of years ago and found out her mother is Julianna Dennis who I reviewed in "To Kill a Mockingbird") Michael Foley who recently got married, has several comedic moments in the show where he shows off his strong tenor voice while dressed as Elvis in "Reindeer Boogie". He gets to strut his stuff while the three girls sound and dance like the Andrews Sisters while dressed as Reindeers and sing Jingle Bells in counterpoint with his boogie number. He and Christine Maus Joyce, another gorgeous brunette, while clad in matching sweaters where they sing about their first Christmas together in "This Will Be the Best Christmas Ever" and eventually hate everything the other one decorates the tree with. (I reviewed Mike as the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast".) Last but not least Christine vamps it up as one of the Mrs. Santa Claus' in "Surabaya Santa" complete with Russian accent and proclaims she wants to leave Santa because she is bored with her life there. Some of the sing-a-long numbers include "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas" and "Feliz Navidad". These fabulous performers voices blend together superbly, creating a joyous sound. The entertaining infomercial type video is performed by Peter Dupre and Holly Hauser and garners many laughs, too.
"The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" is hilarious from start to finish as anyone whoever sat thru Sunday school can attest to. Bunny Wiggins, a sexy blonde haired bimbo, is the Sunday school teacher who is a former airline stewardess. Played by Cinda Donovan who makes her sickenly sweet and then has her scream at the kids which is hilarious. There is a cast of almost 30 children in this show. The premise is that play director Mrs. Armstrong has broken her leg and can't direct the pageant so Bunny has to do everything herself but ropes in Mrs. Bradley to help out. Beth Bradley is the narrator of the show as well as the voice of reason and is played excellently by Allison Rosenbaum. Beth's lovable younger brother, Charlie is well played by Paul Vaillancourt who's character spills the beans that there are free snacks at Sunday school which prompts the ill behaved Herdman kids to finally show up on the day of the pageant auditions. The Herdman kids swear and smoke cigars and are not well liked by anyone in this small town in NH. Needless to say the rehearsals are a shambles and there is never a run thru of the show because Imogene who is playing Mary, is found smoking a cigar but it is the women's guild's forgotten cake in the oven that caused the fire. Abby Warren as Imogene and Danny Tobin as Ralph Herdman appear as Mary and Joseph and when a short takes place in the lights, the baby Jesus seemingly fixed them. The goody two shoes who usually plays Mary is Alice who is well played by Kelly Sweeney. Another funny bit is when the Angel of the Lord appears flying on a winch rigged up by Zoe and Jordie to fly in the sky. This is the character of Elmer played comically by Luke Sullivan who keeps yelling is afraid of heights. Another scene stealer is Sophie McLellan as Gladys Herdman who plays the angel dove dressed as a Ninja turtle and yelling Shazam while karate kicking people. Let me just say this show has to be seen to be enjoyed and due to space limitations it isn't possible to mention everyone in this cast. The videotape of the newsreport of the horrible Herdmans is very comical with a couple of men swearing on TV but being blurred out by the TV station. However the poor Herdman family donates their welfare ham to the poor people of the parish while learning what Christmas is truly about. (Three little babies play baby, Jesus and they are Ada Terceira Mitchell, Alyson or Ashley Ready. (James Valentin dressed in drag, is hysterical as Mrs. Armstrong in her wheelchair.) Bravo to Zoe, Jordie, Michael, Sally and the whole Company of performers for presenting such a fantastic holiday show for one and all to enjoy thoroughly.