Review: Barn Theatre's Christmas Cabaret Overflows with Charm and Cheer

Most of us enjoy time-honored holiday traditions, and for many of us, it simply isn’t Christmas until The Barn Theatre School welcomes us to their annual Christmas Cabaret.

Plenty of loyal Barn patrons say the bar shows after the main stage performances during the regular summer season are their favorite part of The Barn experience, and The Christmas Cabaret, now in its ninth season, is like a sparklejollytwinklejingley bar show, featuring seven spectacularly talented Barnies who also double as servers who bring merriment in the form of complementary dessert plus pizza and cocktails should it be your wish.

“Sparklejollytwinklejingley” also happens to be one of the delightful, festive numbers to kick off the first set of this year’s show, which offers tunes both sacred and secular, from traditional to contemporary, silly to tear-jerking, and everything in between, with marvelous musical direction from Matt Shabala, excellent choreography from Melissa Cotton Hunter, and all of it put together beautifully by Director Penelope Alex.

Last year, I described The Barn Christmas Cabaret as fully embodying true warmth and connection, that which Hallmark movies attempt to create; and this year’s show is no different, though one of its many highlights is “Hallmark Christmas Musical,” an adorably funny spoof of Hallmark Christmas movies with Lizzie Maguire as a hugely successful young woman who wears $1,000 boots but who can’t find love, and Aaron Czarnecki as the not-so-surprising surprise love interest she rediscovers in her hometown. It’s a hoot.

As is Charlie King’s original “The Naughty List,” in which he sings and plays acoustic guitar, imagining “somebody hacked Santy Claus’s list and they're publishing the naughty list.” And “It’s not just names, it’s an actual cataloguing of the deeds themselves. Imagine the repercussions!” He manages to make everyone laugh—from little kids to adults—as well as work in the words “kerfuffle” and “apoplectic” into a brand new Christmas carol.

Equally amusing is “Ugly Sweater Season” to the tune of “Bang Bang” by Jessie J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj from Melissa Cotton Hunter, Lizzie Maguire, Luiza Vitucci, and Maile Beck. Luiza Vitucci also gives a heartfelt performance of “Grown Up Christmas List”; Maile Beck’s clear, sweet voice is especially well suited to the earnest, moving “Mary Did You Know?”; and Melissa Cotton Hunter is very cute in “Never Fall In Love With an Elf” and offers an especially lovely duet with Patrick Hunter in “He Is Born.”

Patrick Hunter’s “What Child is This?” is wonderfully dramatic and other noteworthy virtuoso performances include a nicely understated “Christmas Song” from Mason Gratton, and Matt Shabala’s solo on piano, “Carol of the Bells.”

But what drives this show are the big ensemble numbers that meld these glorious voices in lovely harmonies, particularly “Light of the Stable” with Jake Ragotzy on guitar, and an extraordinary a cappella “Little Drummer Boy.”

The Barn Christmas Cabaret yet again delivers on its promise to make merry and bright, welcoming all to the hearth of good cheer with beautiful singing and dancing, good food and drink, plus an early visit from Santa—making us all feel a part of something larger than ourselves and more than a little magic and joy.

The Barn Christmas Cabaret 2022
Barn Theatre
Dec. 9-22