Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Christmastime"

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note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Beverly Creasey

Nostalgic Christmastime
at Reagle

Reviewed by Beverly Creasey

The Reagle Players are presenting the 18th edition of their musical tribute to an old fashioned Christmas. "Christmastime" has something for everyone: hymns, carols, oratorio, pageants, toy soldiers, tap dancing elves, and eighty adorable children ---on and off the stage in an instant. No wranglers needed. Director Bob Eagle runs a tight ship. Hordes of performers (Reagle may hold the Guinness Book record) enter and exit in the blink of an eye.

This year's version is shorter (I really miss the retired Rockettes) and more reverent, with an emphasis on the true "spirit" of the season --- which Eagle achieves by changing the order of previous years' segments. The show opens with soprano Elisabeth Walsh (a Christmas gift all by herself) singing "The Most Wonderful Birthday of All" followed by the Reagle choir processing with candles down the aisles, reminding us what beauty there is in those simple, classic Christmas carols. A rousing Hallelujah Chorus caps the opening section of "Christmastime".

The children come next, but this is definitely not a recital. These kids are pros: not a step is out of place in the miniature Santas number and the Raggedy Ann and Andy dance. Even the tiny tots have their choreography down.

Reagle creates the Radio City Music Hall production of a Teddy Bear Nutcracker with fiendishly cute bears in tutus executing the specialty dances. Tall black bears in Cossack garb jump into the air touching their toes to their outstretched hands, Russian style...pandas in rice hats cavort to the Chinese dance...chubby teddies in pink tutus step to the Sugar Plum Fairy section --- but what makes this year's Nutcracker fresh is a frisky panda who breaks into a "Stayin' Alive" boogie step during the Waltz of The Flowers!

I could go on about Susan Chebookjian's dazzling choreography for the young aspiring Rockettes, whose vitality and precision is simply remarkable (and you could hear the taps thanks to conductor Brent Ferguson); I could rave about Julia Liu's musical direction, about Buddy Bergeron and Kermit The Frog, about the gorgeous tableaux, about Gayle Sullivan's sumptuous costumes... Suffice it to say, if you aren't humming Christmas carols when you leave, you must be getting coal in your stocking. "Christmastime" is the ultimate holiday experience.

"Christmastime" (till ?? December)
Robinson Theatre, 617 Lexington Street, WALTHAM

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide