Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
December 23, 2011
If this holiday season is about caring and community, Lamb’s Players’ Festival of Christmas has it all wrapped up – and tied with a big red bow.
Amid the superb singing and tight, terrific harmonies, this year there are two very special extras: a delightful performance by 10 year-old Alexis Rae Tenney , who can sing, dance and act like crazy. And even more touchingly, this show marks the final bow of David Cochran Heath. The stalwart Lamb’s Player, after 31 years and 130 productions, is hanging up his comedy and tragedy masks.
My favorite of all his villains, nice guys and nerds, will always be his stunning performance as the eminently principled lawyer and unparalleled father, Atticus Finch, in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which also starred his then-9 year-old daughter Carrie, back in 1992.
For his swansong, Heath is playing a man who always had a plan – but who’s walked away from his old life and into a new one. Positively prescient. It’ll be interesting to see what Heath does next. Who knows? He might even open a coffeehouse like his character.
J.M. is one of the denizens of a run-down, gentrifying urban neighborhood – from the lost and lonely to the ambitious and enterprising.
There isn’t a whole lot of plot, but there’s a bevy of characters, from the parent-less little girl to the homeless woman with infinite wisdom, a role cheerfully inhabited by Kathi Gibbs Wood, reprising her 2002 appearance in this piece, “The Spirit of Christmas Present,” one of many written by Lambs resident playwright and associate artistic director Kerry Meads.
This is the directing debut of Colleen Kollar Smith, typically seen as actor, singer and choreographer. She does a fine job at the helm.
A special shoutout to musical director Jon Lorenz, and the piano-playing cast members. Singing those wonderful arrangements, along with the mellow-voiced Lambs regulars, newcomers Renee Rebold and Michelle Pereira add talent and heart to the mix.
The songs range from traditional carols — a gorgeously sung “Do You See What I See,” for example — to less predictable beauties like Joni Mitchell’s “River.”
After some interactive uncertainty, the little girl re-creates the Little Match Girl, reluctant couples come together, J.M.’s father-son rift is repaired, and the homeless woman’s mystical, sky-searching predictions come true.
It may not be searing drama, but it’s warm and heartfelt – just the ticket to keep you in the spirit, even after Christmas Day.
A fond farewell to Mr. Heath, who I hope will follow his final character’s advice: “Keep your nose to the grindstone but your eyes to the skies.”
You set your sights skyward, too – and have the Happiest of Holidays!
Lamb’s Players Theatre’s Festival of Christmas runs through December 30 at the company’s home base in Coronado.
©2011 PAT LAUNER