Read the other A Team Reviews of Rockin Christmas Party here!
“Out! Out! Ebenezer Scrooge!”
The subtitle for “Rockin’ Christmas Party” on the Kleberg Stage at the Zach Theatre says it all: “The Rock-n-Soul FAMILY Musical.”
If you have a friend or family member bah-humbugging the season, then take him/her to this fun, wonderful show. Even if you’ve seen it, this 16th seasonal version might even chase away some of your own yuletide blues.
Yes, there is a sing-along portion, and there is audience participation — a limbo party before the intermission — a Caribbean Christmas? But you get a mix of secular AND religious music as the six vocalists-actors are — well, the well-behaved — allowed to fulfill their musical fantasies — cool lounge singer to Nashville songstress. Yes, you’ll grimace at the bodacious costumes — and the beehive hairdos are back in glorious Technicolor matching the new staging and eye-popping sets and lighting.
Judy R. Arnold, Laura Benedict, Bernard Davis (new to cast), Felicia Dinwiddie, Tiffany Mann (new) and Rebecca Schoolar deliver the vocal goods, song after song after song. And there are 42 songs in the show! Just one nit to pick: There is no way you can smile your way or conjure Christmas while hearing “Ode to Billie Joe.” What if Mary and Joseph, delayed getting to Bethlehem, had paused on the Tallahatchie Bridge? With all due respect to Bobbie Gentry, skip it!
Erica Brown and Jordyn Benson add a bit of fanciful eye-candy to the show as supporting cast members, and both are new on the Zach boards. And from Elvis to the fab Austin snow globe, I was thoroughly entertained. You will be too. Lots of shows right up through Dec. 27, and if it’s extended, why not? We can all use a little Christmas-extender to lift our spirits into 2010.
Preston Kirk, Spicewood TX
Greater Austin Creative Alliance
“A Delight to Ears and Eyes”
So, you think the 16th version of the Zach’s “Rockin’ Christmas Party” is a “been-there, done-that” kind of event? Think again. Producing Artistic Director Dave Steakley and Managing Director Elizbeth Challener, are serving up a fresh version of this Austin-popular chestnut – from music, to staging, to set.
The set (by Michael Raiford) on the Kleberg stage sparkles like a winter wonderland cut-out, or, as Dave says, a scene from a pop-up book. Add the light show (by Jason Amato), the snow flakes, some surprising props – no give-away here — the familiar rhythms and rocking good vocalists and the really tight band, and it is another winner for this winter.
Make time for a break from shopping and decorating and feasting for two hours of first class frivolity and fun. The eight-member cast – and half are new — will provide a mood-altering experience that will have you humming or singing a lot of your fave standards – spiritual, country, Christmas – long after you
leave the theatre.
As hard-working as the cast is at providing riotously funny costumes and situations, don’t overlook band, five folks who really “punch-up” the show: Lannie Hilboldt, conductor, bass, Bob Overton, guitar, Mark Gurgel on a sweet, sweet tenor sax, Jonathan Borden, keyboards, and Pat Kennedy on drums.
I’m compelled to add that I was more emotionally moved when the vocalists – Arnold, Benedict, Davis, Dinwiddie, Mann and Schoolar – closed the show with a series of songs that were more straightforward, serious, heartfelt. “With a Little Help from My Friends,” “Children Go Where I Send Thee,” “Christmas Means Love,” “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” et al. The cast was fashionably dressed for a party – no funny stuff or hijinks here. Nice touch.
Ronda Dale Kirk, Spicewood Texas
A-Team Member: Greater Austin Creative Alliance