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Aurora Theatre1
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Hometown Holidays - Aurora’s Canteen 2004, by Conceived and Written by Anthony P. Rodriguez & Ann-Carol Pence
Minimal Warm Fuzzies
Friday, December 17, 2004
2.0
As I make the rounds to all the annual Christmas shows, I have always made a point to go out to Duluth and see the Aurora show. They have always put one on with great production value and it is always fun - until this year. I was really disappointed in the Canteen this year because it felt like they weren't even trying. The biggest disappointment for me was the lack of imagination in the show this year. It was a hodgepodge of past hits from previous years which was very loosely tied together. I felt it lacked a sentimental thread to relate it all back together. Three themes were competing with each other this year. The USO, Whistle Stop Towns, and American Pop culture through television and the movies. Any one of these themes could have been developed into a full show. The way the show was put together this year, I felt as if I went and saw 3 different theme shows at Six Flags this year.

The set was definitely a step back from some of their earlier sets (Private Lives, 5 Guys Named Moe, Floyd Collins) This set looked like Fuddruckers at Christmas Time - basically the design was just to take everything from past shows out of the prop room and put them on the stage. And the use of the slide projector was distracting and the video montage during the second act seemed like laziness on their part. I could understand if it was to cover up a major costume change or set change, but when the cast came out after the 2 minute break, they were in the same costumes. The costumes were another disappointment. From a nostalgic point of view, it was fun to see costumes from past canteens (who can forget those plaid skirts?) But then opportunities were missed to get really creative with some costumes (The Wizard of Oz particularly stuck out poorly). And the choice of costumes were not always the most flattering to the actors as well.

The cast had some terrific talent that was sorely under used. These are all terrific performers, but I felt as if they just weren't having fun in the show. Jerrica Knight and Eric Catania both have beautiful voices, but I felt they were wasted on thankless goofy songs. Chris Skinner does stand out in his Freddy the Freeloader role, but looked bored most of the rest of the show. And with Russell Rhodes impressive dance bio - I was hoping for some spectacular dance breaks, but was sorely disappointed. Natalie Gray as always was sweet and spunky and in fine voice. My only criticism is that the choreography didn't make the non-dancers in the show look good. And the military numbers lacked crispness and were sloppy. Kimberly Bates as well was fine for the show. She is a beautiful girl and I expect to see bigger and better things from her soon. I was particularly pleased with some of the harmonies that AC Pence was able come up with for the show - not an easy task when you have 3 men with very similar voice types. As usual the vocal highlight of the show was the Andrew Sisters montage.

At this time of year, there are so many choices for holiday entertainment. Aurora seems to be relying on their season ticket subscribers to fill the seats at Christmas time. However, I noticed more than a few people reading their programs and checking their watches. For their sake, I hope that they put a little more effort into the future Canteens if they want to attract more folks to their theater. Their current patrons are getting up in years...

Hopefully this year is a glitch and they will be on track for the rest of the season.

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