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Christmas Canteen 2013

a Holiday Show
by Brandon O’Dell

COMPANY : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 4524

SHOWING : November 29, 2013 - December 22, 2013



Gwinnett’s longest running theatrical holiday tradition, Christmas Canteen returns for our 18th season. This nostalgic musical revue is a Winter Wonderland that just keeps getting better. With the awe inspiring Festival of Trees, we guarantee to show you What Christmas Means to Us.

Choreographer Ricardo Aponte
Music Director Ann-Carol Pence
Director Anthony Rodriguez
Cast Randi Garza
Cast Brandon Odell
Cast Lyndsay Ricketson
Cast Bryant Smith
Cast Airan Chase
Cast Terry Henry
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


Done to a "U"
by playgoer
Monday, December 2, 2013
"Christmas Canteen" is back at the Aurora for an 18th season. This time, the cast is largely new. Writer Brandon O’Dell is back as co-host (sharing the duties with Bryant Smith), and he’s crafted a show that combines old and new elements. Director Anthony Rodriguez and choreographer Ricardo Aponte have staged it nicely on Britt Hultgren Ramroop’s stair and arch-filled set, and Thom Beaulieu’s lighting scheme adds variety. Unfortunately, the back projection screen waves and flutters, and Daniel Terry’s video projections have a blurred, overlapped section in the center that makes some armed forces photographs look like they were taken in fun-house mirrors. Perhaps that will be corrected during the run.

Ann-Carol Pence has done her usual tip-top job of music direction. The talented cast sounds terrific, or would if sound designer Daniel Terry didn’t insist on amping up the volume so that all voices seem to be arriving from above-ground speakers instead of from the nicely projecting singers onstage. The musical arrangements this year seem a bit more complex than in previous years, with a lot of customized lyrics and musical fills. I’d say that the music was done to a "T," only I felt it was a tad overdone. Let’s say, done to a "U."

Alan Yeong’s costumes have their high points and their low points. The start and end costumes for the ladies in act one are largely brown, and brown is not a very flattering or festive color. The 80’s costumes are a little like the 80’s section of the show -- loud and fun for the first few minutes, then getting tiresome.

The main reason to see this show is for the cast. Bryant Smith has a golden throat (as the scripted banter notes), and he has an easy rapport with the audience and with co-host Brandon O’Dell. Mr. O’Dell comes up a little short vocally this year, but only because of the stellar abilities of the rest of the cast. Relative newcomer Airan Chase has a very pleasing voice and good movement, but seems a bit reserved onstage. Randi Garza is anything but reserved. Her infectious enthusiasm and terrific voice let her land every solo moment she has, and she gives drive to the ensemble numbers. Lyndsay Ricketson matches her in verve and enthusiasm, and it’s a pleasure to watch (and hear) her in every solo and group number. Terry Henry seemed a bit hesitant in some dance movements at the start, but got increasingly comfortable as the performance went on. Her vocal harmonies were great, particularly in accompanying Ann-Carol Pence in "Silent Night," and her solos were on the great side too. Apprentice Company members Akia Sembly and Benjamin Davis have their chances to shine too.

"Christmas Canteen" for 2013 is a highly professional production, but consequently lacks some of the charm a less highly glossed show might have. Much is made of Bryant Smith’s recent star turn in "Les Miz," and he launches into glorious song on multiple occasions, only to be interrupted by Brandon O’Dell’s comedy bits. When Brandon introduced Bryant singing "O Holy Night" with a promise not to interrupt him, one lady in the audience applauded mightily. More song and less comedy seemed to be the wish, although the comedy did seem underplayed in this year’s production, compared to previous years. The mix of song, comedy, and dance doesn’t have a lot of excitement value this year, with the unchallenging choreography and interspersed comic bits paling next to the glorious sounds issuing from the golden throats of the cast members and the scintillating accompaniment provided by the onstage, four-piece band. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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