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Christmas Canteen 2011

a Holiday Show
by Brandon O'Dell

COMPANY : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 4182

SHOWING : November 25, 2011 - December 23, 2011



Aurora's annual living Christmas card and Gwinnett's longest running theatrical holiday tradition, "Christmas Canteen," returns for its 16th season. This nostalgic musical revue is a Winter Wonderland that just keeps getting better

Music Director Ann-Carol Pence
Director Anthony Rodriguez
Cast Tedra Chriss
Cast Erin Meadows
Cast Eric D. Moore
Cast Jevares Myrick
Cast Brandon Odell
Cast Stacey Stone
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


Not Quintessential
by playgoer
Friday, December 9, 2011
Last year's "Christmas Canteen" at Aurora Theatre was probably the quintessential edition. Many of the crowd-pleasing segments from past years were integrated into the wittily charming continuity provided by Brandon O'Dell. This year's edition has far fewer of the well-known segments and makes a couple of significant missteps. Instead of a single host (Brandon O'Dell) we have two (Brandon O'Dell and Erin Meadows). Brandon, playing himself, comes across as well as he did last year. Ms. Meadows, though, hasn't been given much of a character to play. She swats Mr. O'Dell playfully, exhaling a weary "Oh, Brandon!" when he does another of his endless plugs for the show's sponsors, but nothing of her own personality comes through. Ms. Meadows is an excellent actress with wonderful timing in her opening sequence, but the role of host requires that the actor's innate personality come across loud and clear. At the end of the show, I felt I didn't know Ms. Meadows at all as a person.

Another major misstep is the overall premise of the show -- that Erin Meadows is "a little bit country" and that Brandon O'Dell is "a little bit rock 'n' roll." Both are a lot o' bit show biz performers. The premise gives an excuse to integrate more country and rock 'n' roll music into the proceedings, but it works only in the associations it triggers in the audience's memories. There's a lot of music that will be familiar to middle-aged members of the audience.

R&B sections of the show tend to work better, with Brandon O'Dell, the gloriously voiced Tedra Chriss, the powerfully voiced Eric Moore, and the quirky Jevares C. Myrick selling their songs with aplomb. The same can't be said of the tribute to the Supremes, with somewhat ugly costumes by Neal Vipperman (the only misstep in an otherwise nicely costumed show) and featuring the white bread vocals of Erin Meadows and Stacey Stone.

Ms. Stone is one of my favorite performers, scintillating and sparkling onstage, even when she is only singing backup or reacting to other performers. In the opening weekend performance I saw, though, she had a couple of missteps, both vocally and physically. I hope she was having temporary vocal issues that altered the point of the break in her voice between chest and head. All her solos seemed to be centered squarely on that break. Music director Ann-Carol Pence may have made a serious misstep in assigning those solos to Ms. Stone without any transposition.

Ms. Pence has a couple of solos, along with accompanying the entire show on the keyboard, as part of the four-piece band (excellent as always). The two numbers she sings ("Hard Candy Christmas" and "Any Place I Hang My Hat is Home") both express fairly plaintive and rootless sentiments. She looks and sounds great, but the songs add a bit of a depressing tone to the proceedings.

The set, designed by Britt Hultgren Ramroop, seems to act primarily as scaffolding for the overly complicated lighting design of Bradley Bergeron. There are three glass windows in the floor for lighting effects, but they make sense only in a short segment in which Mr. Myrick appears (not very convincingly) as a playful child. The stairs have lights embedded in them, but one string had fallen in the top tier at the performance I saw, greatly marring the effect. I hope that has been corrected for the rest of the run. I also hope that the dispersing fog effect has been removed, since it would make no sense except for a puff during "Chattanooga Choo Choo," and several spectators entered the auditorium wondering if their glasses were dirty.

There's a lot of talent onstage, the band sounds great, costumes are varied and colorful, and the show moves along pretty smoothly. Ricardo Aponte's choreography doesn't impress much, but adds movement to the proceedings. This year's "Christmas Canteen" is an entertaining edition in the series, but it's hardly the best of the bunch. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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