Also see Scott's review of Hair
This holiday season, La Comedia Dinner Theatre in Springboro, Ohio, supplies a healthy dose of Christmas joy through a show that spotlights both our childhood emphasis on Santa Claus and the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus. With a line of dancing chorines, Santa magic, carolers and a nativity scene, this showcase makes up for a lack of originality through its entertainment, talent and traditional values.
La Comedia Christmas Spectacular borrows liberally from the Radio City Christmas Spectacular in its concept, themes and format. Like the New York seasonal tradition, this "spectacular" also features a line of beautiful women (here called the Holiday Belles) performing intricate dance numbers dressed as reindeer, toys and wooden soldiers. The main conceit involves Santa trying to convince four siblings that he really does exist, using "Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus" as his starting point. Santa also reminds the kids about the true meaning of Christmas, which leads to the Nativity story that closes the show.
The story for is pretty straightforward and doesn't try to get too complicated. Instead, it creates a simple structure to showcase songs, dances and stories targeted to the dinner theater's more traditional audiences. Written by Eric Johnson and Kevin P. Hill, the show features mostly well known carols, both secular and Christian, but also introduces several unfamiliar songs, none of which register significantly in regard to melody or lyrics. The switch from the Santa portion to the presentation of the birth of Jesus seems tacked on, but serves as a welcomed reminder of the reason behind the season.
As usual, La Comedia has brought together a talented group of performers. Chris Beiser is an energetic and jolly Santa and sings extremely well. The sixteen Holiday Belles show off professional dancing skills, and the carolers provide exquisite vocals throughout, with especially beautiful renditions of the nativity carols. Dustin Farris deserves special mention for his stirring performance of "O Holy Night." The children in the cast do very well also, with Cara Severson (Virginia) a standout on opening night (two groups of seven kids alternate performances).
Mr. Johnson also serves as Co-Director and Music Director, with Mr. Hill again his partner as Co-Director and Choreographer. If the proceedings feel slightly contrived, the show definitely is entertaining, pleasant and fun, and it moves at a brisk pace. The dances are visually appealing and very reminiscent of those by the Rockettes (maybe a bit too close in a few spots). The set design by Matthew J. Evans, lighting by Geoffrey D. Fishburn, and costumes by Patricia Nock and Laurie Hessler are all attractive and theatrically appropriate.
Audiences at La Comedia Christmas Spectacular will hopefully catch some of the spirit of Christmas that is mentioned a number of times within the show. With a strong nod to the Radio City tradition with a similar title, look and feel, this is an enjoyable and agreeable way to celebrate the season. The show continues at La Comedia through December 31, 2009. Tickets can be ordered by visiting www.lacomedia.com or calling 1-800-677-9505.