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Christmas Canteen 2012

a Musical Revue
by Brandon O'Dell

COMPANY : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 4386

SHOWING : November 23, 2012 - December 23, 2012



Our annual living Christmas card and Gwinnett’s longest‑running theatrical holiday tradition, Christmas Canteen returns for our 17th season. This nostalgic musical revue is a Winter Wonderland that just keeps getting better.

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Canteen Redux
by playgoer
Sunday, December 9, 2012
Aurora's umpteenth version of "Christmas Canteen" is pretty much what audiences have come to expect, with much of the material recycled from last year and years past. The set is new, with a ponderous feel and a look reminiscent of "Sweet Charity." The costumes are fresh and new. The lighting design is new and impressively effective. The sound design is well-balanced, but removes immediacy from the show by channeling everything through speakers. It all gives the impression of a salad that's been lightly re-tossed and presented as a new dish.

The show starts off weakly. Script developer Brandon O'Dell seems enamored of a cutesy Donny and Marie Osmond joke that works well enough, but what doesn't work is trying to force co-hosts Kathryn Berrong and O'Dell into the "little bit country"/"little bit rock 'n' roll" mold. They're both immensely likeable and perky, but they are both firmly planted in show music territory. It makes no sense for the supposedly "country" Ms. Berrong to immediately launch into the Bacharach-David song "Christmas Day" from "Promises, Promises." It's a rangy song that does nothing to show off Ms. Berrong's voice.

After the shakiness of the start, the show picks up steam. There has never been a version of Christmas Canteen with a better set of voices. O'Dell and Berrong would provide vocal highlights in most productions, but here they're blasted away by the ensemble of Eric Moore, Jevares Myrick, Courtney Godwin, and Taryn Janelle. Wow, what a set of pipes! The whole cast moves well too, performing Ricardo Aponte's choreography with skill and apparent ease. Music accompaniment by Ann-Carol Pence and her band is, as usual, impeccable.

The script seems somewhat half-hearted. There are mini movie re-creations scattered about, but they don't seem thematically integrated. Nor are they entirely accurate. Ann-Carol Pence sings a song from "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" (music & lyrics by Carol Hall), but she attributes the song to Dolly Parton. Unforgiveable!!

The material contains 50's numbers, WWII numbers, holiday favorites, and a beautifully constructed armed forces medley. Most are familiar from previous seasons. The most notable new material is the number "Fun" from the musical "Big," done by storybook characters, with a step-on keyboard. I thought it worked well, but the person I was with considered the show was a little long and specifically noted "Fun" as a number that could be cut.

There is no reason to see "Christmas Canteen 2012" if you've seen the 2010 or 2011 version. This edition is not particularly well-constructed, but contains a number of wonderfully-performed numbers. It's well worth seeing (and hearing) for the talent evident onstage, but it's entirely too similar to the last couple of years to make that a deciding factor. If you've seen it once, you've seen this edition to all intents and purposes. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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