THEATER REVIEW Pines' 'Christmas' readies you for season
It seems too soon to be thinking of Christmas. Was it not only a few short weeks ago when weather was still balmy with the kiss of summer?
The Pines Dinner Theatre production of "The Miracle of Christmas" changes all that, swiftly transporting theater-goers to the rustic charms of wintery Vermont.
As the holiday season launches into full gear, theater companies are bringing out their winter extravaganzas. Amidst revivals of classic fare, "The Miracle of Christmas," though Dec. 30, is an original work which explores the classic question: What is the meaning of Christmas?
Young Clara (Erisa Sloan) is a typical urban child who wants nothing more than to be left alone with her smart phone. Her mother, Stephanie (Jennie McGuinness), has decided that the pair will make a trip to see family for the Christmas holiday in rural Vermont. This is immediately met with great resistance by Clara, who pouts and stomps her disapproval.
Upon arriving in Vermont at Uncle Nick's Cabin, Clara meets for the first time her relatives who are over the top in their joy for the Christmas season. Clara is not taken with them and would like nothing more than to return to the familiar city life back home. With Vermont snowy and cold, will the family be able to thaw Clara's heart with Christmas season magic?
The musical is filled with familiar Christmas carols intermingled with original music and lyrics. Credit for the music and clever lyrics belongs to Oliver Blatt and Stacy Bechtel, music director, along with Jason Michael, who contributed to the songwriting.
The cozy Pine's Dinner Theatre is the perfect setting for this particular production. Theater-goers are seated cabaret-style in an intimate setting with clear sight lines in a small capacity room.
Set design and lighting, also the work of the show's director Blatt, brings to life each of the scenes. Blatt makes use of an opaque screen in the foreground of the stage to depict a forbidden forest and the evening stars, while the set pieces bring to life the rustic charm of a country Christmas in a wooded wonderland.
The cast of seven plays principal and supporting roles. The cast is strong in vocalization, harmonies and acting. Young Erisa Sloan as Clara projects convincing childhood frustration with her overly cheerful relatives through body language and facial expressions.
Ryan Kelly (Adam) and Jeffrey Mindock (Rudy) share chemistry and inject much of the comedy into the performance. Mindock has a scene-stealing comedic moment while venturing into the woods to find the "perfect" Christmas tree with the reluctant Clara. Kelly, a Pine's veteran is a gifted singer who once again showcases his vocal prowess.
Michael Pizolato plays kindly Uncle Nick with understated charm and takes a turn as Santa Claus, greeting the audience with handshakes and stopping at several tables as he makes his way toward the stage.
Jennie McGuinness as Stephanie, Clara's mother, is a delight. Amber Kerestes (Brittany) and Gwen Swanson-Vigorito (Sandy) have several shining moments as they guide Clara in her odyssey to discover the meaning of Christmas.
The Pines Dinner Theatre's "The Miracle of Christmas" will send audiences on their way with a twinkle in their eyes and hearts filled with the holiday spirit.