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Christmas Canteen 2014

a Holiday Musical
by Brandon O’Dell

COMPANY : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 4655

SHOWING : November 20, 2014 - December 21, 2014



Gwinnett’s longest running theatrical holiday tradition, Christmas Canteen, returns for its 19th season. This nostalgic musical revue is a Winter Wonderland that just keeps getting better. Combined with the awe-inspiring Festival of Trees, it will be a Holly Jolly Christmas and then some!

Director Anthony Rodriguez
Cast Randi Garza
Cast Terry Henry
Cast Liza Jaine
Cast Brandon Odell
Cast Bryant Smith
Cast Brian Walker
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


Going On and On and On and On
by playgoer
Monday, December 22, 2014
As always, Aurora’s annual "Christmas Canteen" is blessed with fine musical direction, sprightly holiday music, an armed services tribute, and a winningly light-hearted atmosphere of bantering. If you haven’t seen a production of it before, it’s going to entertain you. For the rest of us, the entertainment factor may be tempered a bit. For people who value tradition and sameness for the holidays, it’s a little too different, with a Parisian segment featuring "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir" and a couple of naughty jokes pushing the material a bit away from a G rating. For people who value variety, it’s too much the same, with the interplay of Brandon O’Dell and Bryant Smith being a virtual repeat of last year’s.

There’s a ton of talent onstage. Bryant Smith is a fine singer. Brandon O’Dell is too. Terry Henry’s set of pipes and her natural elegance add some class to the proceedings, and Liza Jaine’s perky enthusiasm tinges every moment with energy. Brian Walker provides lots of enjoyable moments, particularly in the second act, and Randi Garza’s youth, lithe beauty, and sparkling vocals impress at every turn. The interns are less impressive, as you might expect, but all show promise. Director Anthony P. Rodriguez has given them more than enough to do, particularly in the second act. Choreographer Ricardo Aponte has devised dance routines that provide generous amounts of movement without exceeding the capabilities of the cast.

Phil Male’s set has a nice, festive feel, with a multi-story building center stage housing the band and containing a curved staircase whose steps light up. Platforms on either side of the stage bear a striking resemblance to those used in last year’s "Les Miserables" (and perhaps in the repeat of it, up next at the Aurora?). The ornaments hanging from above really cap the holiday feeling the set conveys. Projection screens to the side are overused in Daniel Pope’s video design, and don’t provide good sightlines for those down center in the audience. Mary Parker’s lighting design and Alan Yeong’s costumes do everything they can to provide a consistent holiday experience.

Ann-Carol Pence provides her usually superb musical direction, and looks great. She adds her standard vocal performance on "Silent Night," as on previous years. (In interviews, she’s indicated that audience members told her she had to reinstate it after skipping it one year.) Nothing new there, and a consistent standard of quality is appreciated.

Aurora is hardly alone in repeating a hit holiday show. Look at the Alliance and "A Christmas Carol;" Horizon and "The Santaland Diaries"/"Madeleine’s Christmas;" even Theatrical Outfit and "The Gift of the Magi." At least Aurora makes the effort to devise a new show each year, trading sections in and out and devising new continuity in an attempt to keep things fresh. Like it or not, we’re probably stuck with it for years to come, just like the candy canes that arrive reliably, year after year, in the stockings Santa fills for us. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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