KPBS AIRDATE: December 09, 2005
How do you like your holiday music? Jazzy, gospel or kid-friendly? There’s a melody waiting in a perennial at a theater near you. For the eighth year, ‘The Grinch’ is at the Globe — and he’s got a new face. Don’t worry; it’s still green, but the mug behind the fur belongs to Broadway veteran Leo Daignault, who appeared in “Avenue Q,” and toured in “The Full Monty” and “Miss Saigon.” So he knows his way around a laugh line and a tear-jerker. He’s a darker, more disappointed and disillusioned Green Meanie, and his interactions with adorable Mackenzie Holmes as Cindy-Lou Who are genuine hankie-grabbers. Also a standout in the alternating cast I saw was young Ari Lerner. The show’s energy is high, the costumes are a hoot, the tunes are catchy and the singing is excellent. But those non-Seussian rhymes remain shamefully lame. Still, watching the kids loving every minute is well worth a return visit.
There are also some terrific kids in the Lamb’s Players 25th annual “Festival of Christmas.” Writer/director Kerry Meads set this one in 1928, which allows for some jazzy variations. The play quotes liberally from Dickens’ “Christmas Carol” and parallels “The Grinch.” A crusty patriarch tries to cancel his family’s Christmas, because it’s gotten too commercial and too far from its origins. But he relearns the true spirit of Christmas from a delightful tyke, impossibly cute Elizabeth Morse. Another charming and talented towhead is her onstage brother, 9 year-old Ian Brininstool. Though the script has a familiar feel and a few untied narrative threads, the singing is wonderful, the set and costumes are beautiful and all the players are first-rate. KB Mercer steals the show as a hilariously sarcastic maid, and Cris O’Bryon displays his musical gifts on the baby grand…. including a delicious taste of ‘Rhapsody in Blue.”
Now, if you want to put a little soul in your Christmas story, check out “Black Nativity.” The gospel song-play was written in 1961 by the beloved poet, Langston Hughes. A Christmas-morning church service bookends the piece, which shows the birth of Jesus from the African American perspective, through scripture, song and dance. Common Ground Theatre artistic director Floyd Gaffney has assembled two dozen fine singers and one lithe, rubber-limbed dancer, Elizabeth Bronner, who’s marvelously beatific as the Virgin Mary. There were miking and sound balance problems the night I was there, and the accompanists sometimes drowned out the choir, but the singing was splendid, bringing well and lesser-known hymns, songs and carols to mellifluous life.
If you’d prefer an escape from all this sweetness and light, don’t miss “The Santaland Diaries,” adapted from David Sedaris’ deliciously wicked adventures as a Macy’s elf, with captivating Dennis Scott as the ultimate sugar-plum fairy.
So, have yourself a musical — or cynical — season.
©2005 Patté Productions Inc.