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Christmas Canteen 2018

a Holiday Show
by Brandon O’Dell

COMPANY : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 5397

SHOWING : November 15, 2018 - December 23, 2018



Gwinnett’s longest-running theatrical holiday tradition, "Christmas Canteen 2018" returns for a 23rd smash year! This stunning musical revue makes "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" even more wonderful. Brimming with songs, comic sketches, trips down memory lane and a sprinkle of Christmas magic, it’s the holiday show with something for everyone

Director Ricardo Aponte
Director Anthony Rodriguez
Cast Rebecca Galen Crawley
Cast Jimi Kocina
Cast Christian Magby
Cast Chani Maisonet
Cast Kristin Markiton
Cast Cecil E. Washington Jr.
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


Bigger and Slicker
by playgoer
Tuesday, November 27, 2018
In the past, Aurora Theatre’s "Christmas Canteen" has typically featured a core cast of six, augmented by interns joining in on a few large numbers. This year, the core cast numbers eight: Galen Crawley, Jimi Kocina, Christian Magby, Chani Maisonet, Kristin Markiton, Kenny Tran, Cecil Washington Jr., and Briana Young. Interns Peyton McDaniel and Sarah Grace Valleroy also get their chance to shine, amidst their running crew duties. Many of the components of previous seasons are here, just bigger and slicker.

Julie Ray’s set resembles a ski lodge, all mid-century modern rock and wood, with snow banks and paper birches visible outside the wall of windows. Empty hooks on the walls and bannisters hint that the place will be bedecked and begarlanded with greenery and ornaments before too long. The four-piece band is tucked under the second level of the set, flanked by the two grand staircases leading up to the second level. It’s all big and lush and professional.

Jimi Kocina is given the role of comic emcee; Cecil Washington, Jr. is his straitlaced co-host. To start out with, there are a lot of comic interruptions by Mr. Kocina. He also gets a chance to reprise Aurora’s one-minute "Christmas Carol." But the skit components of this edition of "Christmas Canteen" are limited; most of the time is devoted to glorious singing, the highlight being an operatic "Gesù Bambino" by Ms. Markiton and Ms. Maisonet. Most of the music is of the holiday variety; there’s just a brief armed forces medley and Andrews Sisters segment in the second act to remind us that the "Christmas Canteen" concept was originally of 1940’s armed forces entertainment.

Bradley Bergeron’s projections of photos of local veterans and active duty personnel accompany the armed forces medley, but this year the sequences of images are different on the two screens flanking the stage. You’ll get whiplash trying to catch all the photos. Otherwise, Mr. Bergeron’s lighting design fits in nicely with this year’s big, slick concept.

Alan Yeong’s costumes are lush; Cody Russell’s props are festive; Ricardo Aponte’s choreography is an energetic visual feast. Daniel Terry’s sound design pumps up the volume so much that you get the feeling that you’re watching TV, with sound coming almost exclusively from speakers. It’s glaringly obvious when microphones aren’t turned on in time for an actor’s lines.

Aside from the over-amplified volume, the quality of music is high, as always seems to be the case under Ann-Carol Pence’s musical direction. She’d better watch out, though; Christian Magby takes over her piano-playing duties when she sings a solo, and his musicality outshines her vocals.

The script by Brandon O’Dell is reminiscent of those of previous years, with Mr. Kocina taking over Mr. O’Dell’s role (but with a better singing voice). Direction, by Anthony Rodriguez and Mr. Aponte, makes full use of the stage and ample use of the vocal talents of the accomplished cast. Even so, the overall impression is that these actor/singer/dancers are doing a paid gig. Only Ms. Crawley seems truly engaged and happy to be onstage throughout, and Mr. Tran exudes energized stage presence during his solo spots. Otherwise, the cast seems to be doing what they’re being paid to do. It’s big and slick and a bit soulless. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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