Wednesday, 12 December 2018 11:03

Review: Barn Theatre’s Christmas Cabaret brings you into the family gathering

Written by  Marin Heinritz
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Review: Barn Theatre’s Christmas Cabaret brings you into the family gathering Courtesy Photo

You may think you've heard all the Christmas songs. And you may regret how many times you’ve heard them. But you also are more than likely wrong. On both counts.

This is the gift of The Barn Theatre School’s Christmas Cabaret. Whether you can’t get enough holiday cheer or you dread the time of year when FM radio stations convert to endless Christmas tunes, there is undoubtedly something here that will surprise, delight and make you feel the true spirit of Christmas.

Beyond the wonderfully eclectic mix of songs both sacred and secular — from rockabilly, soul and funk to traditional carols and sassy spoofs masterfully selected and sequenced by Director Penelope Alex — the extraordinary talent among the cast of nine (five of whom are Equity Actors and beloved Barnies recognizable from years of appearing on The Barn stage during the summer stock season) takes each song and the two-act show overall seemingly beyond their potential, gloriously capturing the many moods of the season.

They are the shining stars up on the highest bow.

In fact, the talent is so impressive they make even the well-worn beloved classics sound new again. Take Hannah Eakin’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and Logan Dolence’s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” for example.

All of the solos are heartfelt and tremendous; Molly Hill’s “Do You Have Room” and Shinnerrie Jackson’s rendition of Sandi Patty’s “Child of Peace” are tear jerkers. Charlie King’s versions of JD McPherson’s “All the Gifts I Need” and “Socks” are fun and moving. Musical Director Brent J. Decker’s “Carol of the Bells” is one particularly gorgeous arrangement of many.

Ensemble numbers such as Charlie Brown’s “Christmastime Is Here,” “Realms of Glory,” a mash up of several of the loveliest Christmas hymns, and “Winter Bring Me Home,” are pretty and sentimental; while others, including “Donde Esta Santa Claus” and “Christmas Funk,” a riff on Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” are laugh-out-loud funny.

Steven Lee Burright is very funny in his own right in “Christmas Redesign,” a playful spoof of political correctness, and yet also has the opportunity to show off his rich voice in “Silver & Gold” that, if you close your eyes, is wonderfully reminiscent of Burl Ives.

And Charlie King and Shinnerrie Jackson make Christmas magic together in their goosebump-inducing duets “Ring Them Bells” and Nell Carter’s “Merry Christmas, Stranger,” from an episode of “Gimme a Break.”

Other delightful surprises abound, including plenty of options for audience participation, the appearance of various musical instruments and percussive elements throughout.

As is always the case at the Barn, everyone is doing everything: Alex directed and did all the staging — and ran the light board opening night. Rickard performs onstage and behind the bar, and also was responsible for the playful choreography. Brendan Ragotzy stage managed, parks the cars, and may or may not appear as a jolly old elf. And the rest of the performers serve pie and drinks and bus tables among other things audience members don’t get to see.

It’s an intimate family holiday affair, but the kind of the rarest variety, because it makes you feel genuinely joyful and happy and warm — and look forward to the next time everyone will gather, which for Barn audiences, won’t be until next summer.

Christmas Cabaret
Barn Theatre
Dec. 14-16, 21-22
barntheatreschool.org

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