Mill River Dinner Theater's holiday show is "The Rented Christmas". A young bachelor and prominent businessman hasn't celebrated Christmas for many years because he is still mourning the death of his parents but this year he enters a little shop with a sign that reads, "We Rent Anything". Following a whim, he decides to rent Christmas from the lovely young proprietor. She hires people from the actors guild to play the roles but they come down with measles on Christmas eve. The orphans offer to play the roles for her and convince her to play the mother. A "rented'' Christmas soon turns everyone's dreams into reality. Chuck PetitBon directs this heartwarming family musical which will bring the joy of Christmas to everyone who sees it, making you forget all about "Christmas Carol".
Chuck and music director, Dan Zabinski choose topnotch singers for this musical. Everyone of them gets a chance to show off their voices throughout this show in the many numbers in it. The two leads, Staci Watkinson as Ann Weston and Paul Morin as John Dale charm the audience with their touching portrayals and their fantastic voices. She gives him the best Christmas gift in the world, love and he is so moved by this he decides to open his heart to love. Her soprano voice soars in many of the songs including "Count Your Blessings" and in the final duet with Paul called "Could It Be". His tenor voice sells his songs including "Night of Silence" and his solo of "Could It Be", both tugging at your heartstrings, bringing tears to your eyes. The five orphans who are rented out as his children are excellent, too and their last number "Who Will Love Me?" is not only gorgeous but very poignant. Michael Marchak, a Rocky Hill student, gives a strong performance as the oldest boy, Jimmy. His acting and singing are topnotch. (Michael and Karissa recently appeared in "Seussical" which I really enjoyed at CCRI)The four girls are wonderful and get a chance to show off their singing voices in several songs. The older girls are Karissa D'Ambra as Jean and Leah Kenney as Cynthia and the younger mischief making girls are Amber Johnson as Willie and Lindsay Martin as Freddie who get many laughs with their one liners.
John's caring and protective servants are played by Diane Petit as Martha, the maid and Paul Kenney as Briggs, the butler. They both have great voices and get to sing the trio of Night of Silence with Paul, the joyful "Christmas Is Finally Here" with the children and "When John and Lyle Were Boy's" duet. The nosy but nice neighbors, Benjamin and Sara Whitford are well played by Edward Cooney and Jennifer Robillard who sing "You Can't Rent a Christmas" with Paul and "We Three Kings" with Mrs. Lindsay played by Mabel Carr and the other orphans, Brennan Joyce, Coby James Mercier and Tim Zabinski. (who does a beautiful rendition of Merry Merry Christmas in the audience, then together with Lindsay as a duet.) Chuck also makes the delicious dinner served before the show which includes five different selections. My choice was the chicken corden bleu which is served with a lucious chicken vegetable soup, warm bread, mixed veggies of carrots and string beans, cajun style regular and sweet potatoes and a puff pastry for dessert plus coffee and tea. So for a superior evening of Christmas entertainment be sure to catch "The Rented Christmas". Hopefully it will become a new holiday tradition.