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The Harmony Baptist Church Ladies Auxiliary Christmas Jubilee

a Comedy
CATEGORY : COMEDY
by Laura King

COMPANY : Lionheart Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : College Street Playhouse
ID# 4818

SHOWING : December 11, 2015 - December 20, 2015

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Pastor Bobby has come to Harmony just in time for the 25th Annual Harmony Baptist Church Christmas Jubilee, but no one wants to play the Christmas angel, the star on is broken, the
fruitcake bake-off is a disaster, and Baby Jesus is missing. As the town fights to hold on to their traditions, they learn that maybe progress is not a dirty word.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director James Beck
Kitty Lory Cox
Candy Ann Mitchell
Carol Melissa Rainey
Marsha Kelly Jo Roarke
Tina Jillian Walzer
Roberta Bella Westwood
Pastor Bobby Patrick S. Young
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REVIEWS

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A Mouthful of Icing
by playgoer
Sunday, December 20, 2015
3.0
How’s "The Harmony Baptist Church Ladies Auxiliary Christmas Jubilee" for a mouthful of a title? Laura King’s title gives a hint at the play itself, overstuffed as it is with over-the-top characters. We have two warring children (played by Aaron D. Mitchell and Bella Westwood), their warring mothers (Kelly Jo Roarke and Jillian Walzer), two warring sisters (Ann Mitchell and Melissa Rainey), one of their sons (Jeremy Clark) and his over-attentive girlfriend (Brooke Spivey), a fruitcake-obsessed fruitcake (Lory Cox), and the new preacher (Patrick S. Young) who is about to upset their longstanding church Christmas Jubilee traditions.

There’s a lot of comedy in their anger-filled interactions, along with a bunch of funny lines and running gags. "Finding Jesus" comes up a lot, as the infant Jesus from the nativity scene repeatedly goes missing. The joke lands each time. The act one closing line builds upon the set-up from the start of the show to add icing to the cake in a rousing conclusion. It’s only in the second act that the kinder, gentler lessons of Christmas come into play, with a fairly sentimental ending.

Lionheart Theatre’s production has a nice, workable set designed by director James Beck that shoehorns a pageant stage into the upstage left corner and includes two doorways, a substantial tree, and lots of furniture (set dressing by Cathy Seith) and props (by Chris Pritts and Lory Cox). Lighting design, by Gary White and James Beck, has a few wonky moments, but nicely delineates outside scenes, on the theatre floor, from scenes on the indoor set. Chris Pritts’ costumes work well for the various personas they garb and the various levels of Christmas spirit they exude, while Bob Peterson’s sound design doesn’t have much to do other than playing some scene-setting seasonal music.

While the show is entertaining, the pieces don’t cohere particularly well in this production. We have a low-key performance from Patrick S. Young and a broad performance from Lory Cox that would each work well in the proper context, but in this context appear to be from distinctly different worlds. We have great projection from most of the adult cast, contrasted with muddled diction from the younger cast members. Melissa Rainey’s performance is subtle and nicely played, but comes at a different energy level from most of the rest of the cast. The whole thing seems to lack a firm directorial hand or vision. Individual performances make sense in and of themselves, but not always in conjunction with the performances of everyone else onstage.

There are real Harmony Baptist churches in Georgia and a real Floyd County too, which the play implies is distinct, but fairly close by, and it appears there once was a Harmony Baptist Church in Silver Creek, within Floyd County itself. While the state in which the action occurs is not stated, the coincidence of real places nearly matching the play’s locale implies a roman à clef situation, which I don’t believe was intended. The play is in the tradition of "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" and the Futrelle sister plays like "Christmas Belles," with church holiday activities going awry. It’s meant as sheer holiday entertainment, and as that it succeeds.
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