Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
December 28, 2012
2012 is waning, but you’ve got one more shot at holiday fever onstage: “Christmas on My Mind,” one of the latest and most popular of Lamb’s Players Theatre’s three decades of Festival of Christmas scripts, more than a dozen shows created by resident playwright Kerry Meads.
The comic drama with music, which premiered in 2007, is definitely one of her best. Though it starts from a pedestrian premise — a group of highly disparate folks caught in a blizzard, all winding up in the same cabin in the woods – it soars musically. The cabin happens to harbor a piano, an array of stringed and percussion instruments, and the unsuspecting guests are the singingest , swingingest , most musical bunch you’re ever likely to encounter – in studio or forest! And did I mention that it just happens to be Christmas eve ?
The magnanimous host is Manny, who may be an angel, or might be dreaming the whole thing up. Either way, secrets are shared, wishes are granted and everyone has a highly tuneful time.
The set is elaborately rustic, the costumes are clever. But it’s really all about the singing and the songs, 14 of them, mostly written and/or arranged by the talented cast. Lamb’s regulars Leonard Patton and Jon Lorenz have done most of the heavy lifting in terms of imaginative composing and arranging, and their songs are spirited, heartfelt and gorgeously sung, especially “The Music of Christmas” by Lorenz and Patton’s title tune, “Christmas on My Mind.” Also memorable are a reggae “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen” and a beautiful all-male Afro-pop version of “O Holy Night.”
Then there’s the accompaniment. Nearly everyone onstage plays something, even if it’s the cheese grater. Cris O’Bryon is terrific on piano, as always; David Kirk Grant has a killer Spanish guitar solo; and there are two or three other ax-men, including Nate Peirson , who does a dazzling acoustic “Joy to the World” — and works wonders on harmonica.
Each of the characters is a bit at sea (or in this case, would that metaphor more aptly be adrift in the tundra?). Everyone is looking to find or define Home. And, in twos or threes, as they “talk story,” as Noelle, Season Bowers’ heavily tatted, multi-hued Mohawk-wearing wanderer suggests, they “make sense of life by sharin ’ it.” Pain and loss are revealed, a blessed addition is happily announced, and grizzled men nuzzle up to precocious little kids. There’s plenty of emotional and musical fodder for the whole family.
Best of all, everyone seems to be having so much fun, snuggling into their characters and reveling in the glorious harmonies. So, make the most of this between-holiday lull. Grab the gang and go. Lap up the last droplet of Christmas cheer.
“Christmas on My Mind” continues through December 30 at Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado.
©2012 PAT LAUNER