Sunday, December 13, 2009

EDMT’S “The Holiday Reunion” has homey touch

After getting used to El Dorado Musical Theatre’s awesome productions at the massive Jill Solberg Theatre in Folsom, we enjoy seeing some of its impressive youthful performers in a modest setting, up close and personal. Billed as “a new musical holiday tradition,” the company’s latest offering, “The Holiday Reunion,” makes itself at home at the El Dorado Hills’ Town Center, in a store front now complete with theater lights, audio sound and a dressing room off stage.

Featuring the company’s High Voltage touring group, the story recounts an imaginary rehearsal of a variety musical, performed by alternating casts of 16 each, labeled the Holly and the Jolly. The premise allows the performers, using canned instrumental music, to deliver eleven songs of the season while in unassuming costumes. The show lasts a little over an hour without intermission.

It starts off with a powerful “Live ‘Til I Die” by Cee Cee Patrick, sung by Dee Dee Healy (get it? Cee Cee–Dee Dee?), the adult leader of both casts. The show then brings on the company, authenticating their artistic prowess in a competitive “Tap Battle,” led by the awesome Carly Speno/Andrew Wilson as the fictional Maddie/Mike Sawyer. The rest of the company are no slouches as they give the leaders their best tippy tap support.

Among the varied numbers are “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “We Need a Little Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Sleigh Ride,” “Carol of the Bells,” “Happy Birthday,” and the dazzling windup of “White Christmas.” Added to the program was “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” exquisitely delivered by Heather Clark.

A fine ecumenical touch comes after a company member hangs a Star of David on the Christmas tree, followed by the happy Hebrew song “Hava Nagila,” celebrating Hanukkah and sung by Bennie Bernstein (Alex Levy/Jordan Maxey). That star has a curious history. It was a gift from a Jewish friend to Richard Wilson, who wrote the book for the show. Wilson regularly hangs the star on his family Christmas tree and provided it for the show.

The location comes with some minor inconvenience for the audience. The folding chairs for seating are on a level floor, so that some audience members, especially children, may have a hard time seeing beyond a high back. The blocking is also awkward on occasion, with smaller cast members sometimes hidden behind taller performers. In a professionally designed theater space, these inconveniences would rarely occur.

The show owes a lot to its production staff: Debbie Wilson (director/choreographer), Jennifer Martin (vocal director), Denise McHugh (costumer), Stephanie Hudson (technical director), Annie Speno (High Voltage producer), Tanya Bonds (Holiday Reunion producer), and Angie Teter (Parent Volunteer coordinator).

The production also owes thanks to Tony Mansour, owner of the premises, for offering the space gratis, where it will be shared with a visit from Santa.

“The Holiday Reunion” runs through December 20 at 4357 Town Center Blvd. in El Dorado Hills, Suite 110. Performances are Thursday, December 17, at 7 p.m.; Friday, December 18, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, December 20, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $13-$15. For tickets and more details see or call(916) 941-SING

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