SHOWING : November 26, 2004 - December 19, 2004
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Hometown Holidays-Aurora’s Canteen 2004. Now in it’s 9th Smash Season, this show is the “must see” of the holidays!! The evening is filled with the very best songs of the season, hilarious comedy, and Aurora’s stirring tribute to our fighting men and women in the armed forces. A seasonal masterpiece that captures the allure and custom of holidays past and brings you magically back to a simpler time…a cup of eggnog for the holiday soul.
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Minimal Warm Fuzzies|
Friday, December 17, 2004 ||
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. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
| || Helpful Review by Girl|
| I would love to read what you have to say about any other current shows you have seen, SpamIAm. This review was very insightful! Thanks for upholding what this site is actually here for.|
| || I'm assuming you were serious by Parrott65|
| If your comment on SpamIam's review was serious and not sarcasm, then yes, it was very insightful. I think his/her review was thorough, well thought out, and had absolutely no direct attacks on any one individual. This is the kind of "negative" reviewing we need on here, instead of those submitted for only the purpose of sounding like a dimwitted high school whiner. I'm not referring to your comment, but to other's comments (just recently).|
| || AT review by Shadrach|
| You're not talking about my review, are you, Parrott?|
| || No no no no by Parrott65|
| I wasn't talking about you. I was talking about feather to be more specific...|
| || Girl was serious by Okely Dokely|
| I was there when she made her comment. I wholeheartedly agree with her, and I look forward to seeing more stuff from SpamIAm.|
| || Girl is right by bellsplayer|
| We should encourage reviews and reviewers who express well reasoned opinions even if they are negative and ignore vindictive ones (like feather).|
While I don't agree with everything SpamIAm said, (S)He is talking about the theatrical performance and dosen't sound to be on some personal diatribe.
That said, I enjoyed the show when I saw it. I really liked the costumes, especially the color-coding of the girls. The cast was quite good at the acting, singing and dancing. I thought the arrangements were excellent and played quite well, but would prefer either having the band sing all the time or not at all. I didn't understand the video montage. And would have preferred that either the lights were focused a bit higher or the cast was a bit shorter. But the banter between songs was witty, the show flowed organically, the Raggedy Ann bit was flawless, the set was cute but not too cute, I could hear the singers/actors all the time over the band, the theater is comfortable, no one tried to sing out of his or her range or against voice type. And a good time was had by all.
| || Raggedy Ann bit by Shadrach|
| I knew there was something I forgot to mention in my review. The Raggedy Ann bit was actually my favorite part of the show. Watching Chris "dance" with the doll, then switch the doll with the real-life Raggedy Ann was funny.|
I was confused for a minute in that scene because I thought Kimberly Bates played the Raggedy Ann character, but I was thinking there was no way she could have gotten to the other side of the theatre and changed that quickly (as well as put on the makeup for freckles and the wig). She had just exited the stage in police gear a couple of minutes before Raggedy Ann entered. It wasn't until later that I realized that one of the backstage crew girls played the character (it might have been the stage manager, but I don't have the program in front of me and don't know her name).
| || raggedy ann bit by Annielover|
| This is in response to the comment made by Shadrach...I am friends with some of the actors in the production and I have seen the show. The keystone cop is actually the stage manager and raggedy ann is Kimberly Bates. Just a correction...no harm done. thanks|
Pretty good, but I miss the old Christmas Canteens|
Friday, December 10, 2004 ||
I went to see Aurora Theatre's Christmas Canteen (now called Hometown Holidays) Wednesday night, and it was a lot different from past canteens. While past Christmas Canteens were set overseas at a USO and involve characters from the military, Hometown Holidays focuses more on "Small Town America". They focus on railroad towns back during simpler times when the sound of a train whistle meant that friends and family had arrived for a visit.|
I enjoyed the Christmas Canteens that focused on the USO - the military characters usually did a bunch of silly little skits, told jokes to each other and read letters from back home, along with singing songs in between scenes. I didn't enjoy the Hometown Holidays as much - I guess it's because I'm too young to remember small town America with their whistlestops (heck, I wasn't even born yet). But because I was expecting a different type of show, it wasn't reflected by the rating I gave it.
Ok, on to the performance from Wednesday night. I went to the show looking forward to seeing Eric Catania and Jerrica Knight-Catania, having previously seen them at Onstage in Ragtime and Pippin (and Jerrica in Titanic: The Musical). I was really impressed with their performances in these shows, so I had a high expectation for them in Hometown Holidays. They both sang pretty well, but not as good as they did at Onstage, and I don't think it was their fault - it was just that the type of songs they were singing were much different, and they didn't get a chance to show off their vocals. The other actors in the show were Natalie Gray (her 4th Christmas Canteen at Aurora), Russell Rhodes, Christopher Skinner and Kimberly Bates. Russell Rhodes pretty much served as the "conductor" and "host" for the evening, and Christopher Skinner was the comic relief as the dorky guy, and he was my favorite actor in the show.
I liked the singing of all the actors, but I did not like Natalie Gray's choreography of the show. While singing, they did weird little hand/feet dance moves and at one point, it seemed like they were more like cheerleaders than singers. In other musicals I've seen (especially at Aurora), the singers don't move like that. They focus more on the singing and the passion for the song is really felt by the audience. Maybe the difference is that this wasn't a musical per se, but a musical revue. Whatever it was, I didn't really like that and that's why I gave the production a 3 rather than a 4. While everyone was good, they weren't necessarily great and they looked bored at times and looked like they were just going through the motions of singing rather than really living in the moment.
Act 1 dealt with the Small Town America and the railroad songs, and I was looking forward to intermission. Act 2 was divided into 2 parts: tributes to various people (Judy Garland, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Freddy the Freeloader) and finally, the Christmas songs. I liked the tributes - they were pretty cool. And the Christmas songs was what I went to the show for, but they didn't sing Silent Night, which I was hoping to hear. The last Christmas Canteen I went to at Aurora, I remember Ann-Carol singing "Silent Night" and I was REALLY moved by it.
As always with shows at Aurora, I was really impressed by the set design. They always go all out in designing the set.
Would I go see the show again? Probably not. But would I recommend it to other people - absolutely. It was a pretty good show all in all and I might see it again next year, provided that the choreography is changed. Go catch it if you can, I believe it runs for another two weeks, but most of the shows are sold out already.
Clint [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
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