Monday, November 14, 2011

Not Your Typical Christmas Show at NCT

With Thanksgiving still nearly two weeks away, it was no surprise that the crowd at New Candlelight Theater in Arden on Saturday was a bit smaller than usual. Don't expect such intimacy once the holiday season is in full swing. "A Very Candlelight Christmas" has been much-anticipated by fans of the dinner theater, not least of all because this seasonal production is an original, written and directed by NCT's Producing Artistic Director Chris Alberts and longtime friend Sonny Leo. For a theater that's done such familiar shows as "Cats" and "Annie" this season, the feeling of not having any idea what to expect is a definite change of pace.

 The show starts out like a typical Christmas variety show, complete with overly-enthusiastic hosts Katherine and Alan, comically played by Lindsay Mauck (who is underused in this production) and Tim Moudy. It's not long before the exuberant show derails, as the show-within-a-show's director, Devlin Powers (Patrick Hunt O'Hara), blows up at Katherine and sends everyone home, including his long-suffering brother Marcus (Paul Goodman). Not only does Devlin have no Christmas spirit, he's also sick to death of musical theater -- and thus begins his "Christmas Carol"-esque journey, complete with ghosts, time travel and  Bob Fosse.

A non-traditional set of Three Kings.
The NCT knows it draws lovers of musical theater, and almost all of the show's comedy references Broadway musicals. In that way, this is not a one-size-fits-all Christmas musical. It's for theater people, including die-hard fans. The Three Kings (also the ghosts of Christmas Past) are Don Quixote (Paul Goodman), the King of Siam (Andre Dion Wills) and "Fiddler on the Roof's" Teyve (Dave Snyder). Audrey III from "Little Shop of Horrors" even makes an appearance. It's more focused than it sounds, but some scenes work better than others. Tommy (Dan Sanchez) and Alan's rendition of "Baby It's Cold Outside" would have felt edgier if TV's "Glee" hadn't done a male duet version of it last Christmas, but Candlelight's version does have its own unexpected twist. And while some numbers, such as the Chanukah medley, seem to come out of nowhere, all of the musical numbers are well done. Standouts include "Shall We Dance" with young Zach Pennington and Jamieson O'Brien; "There's a Christmas Song for Every Situation" with Kaylan Wetzel Acon; and a very moving "Auld Lang Syne."

The often self-deprecating show pokes fun of beloved Broadway shows, but, of course, it's all in good fun. Just as it ultimately celebrates "that barn in Delaware," it also loves musical theater in a way only those who have made it their lives can.

"A Very Candlelight Christmas" runs through December 23; The 2012 Season starts up on January 27 with "Miss Saigon."

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