Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #147 - Charlie, the Christmas Elf, again
Lots of work. So I am going for easy posts to catch up. :-)
My review of the Christmas show was finally published. I already wrote about the show and experience here in #130 and again in #137.
You always liked to read my reviews, Mom, so here's the link to the publication and the full text.
MY BATTLE CREEK ENQUIRER REVIEW
"Charlie the Christmas Elf”
a production of Top Hat Productions and Cornwell’s Dinner Theatre
at Turkeyville, USA
Attended Date: Friday, November 13, 2015
reviewed by Christopher Tower
For 15 years Top Hat productions has rung in the yuletide cheer with original Christmas productions at Cornwell’s Professional Dinner Theatre at Turkeyville in Marshall. Overall, the Cornwell’s theater has produced 28 consecutive years of Christmas shows with shows nearly every day until December 19th. The shows are always cheerful, family-affirming, bright, and ebullient. This year’s is no exception.
For 2015, the Christmas gala sends out good tidings with a visit from a head toy maker and gift wrapper from the North Pole in “Charlie the Christmas Elf,” a show that should be part of every family’s holiday agenda in between pictures with Santa, caroling, wassail, and mistletoe kisses.
The show opens in Anywhere-ville America where the family toy shop run by sisters Maude (Jen Morris) and Judy (Megan Wheeler) may have to close due to low sales. The sisters are praying for snow, which always puts people in a gift buying mood, and yet they advertise to hire extra help, hoping that they will be busy enough to page wages to the new worker. A strange woman named Charlie (Holly Norton-McKeen) answers the advertisement. She’s clumsy and worse she sends people away from the shop without buying anything.
It’s soon revealed that Charlie was head elf in Santa’s shop at the North Pole, and she has struck out on her own to show Santa that she’s worthy of a raise and a promotion. As people visit the Christmas store, such as two friends (Peter Riopelle and Megan Wheeler) who run a Christmas costume rental business, Charlie finds what will make them happy and magically grants their wishes.
In the end, all is well (this is a family Christmas show after all), and Charlie returns to the Santa’s employ, but not before she makes more people’s dreams come true. Along the way, Charlie and the rest of the cast sing over two dozen Christmas songs, some traditional numbers, like “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and “We Need a Little Christmas” as well as some different, newer, or modern songs, such as Amy Grant’s “Grown-Up Christmas List,” Michael Bublé’s “Cold December Night,” and Harry Belafonte’s “Jump in the Line.”
Each performer has the chance to sing several solo numbers while only a few of the musical selections are sung by the entire cast, who are only all together on the stage at the end of the show. Megan Wheeler as Judy works to cheer up her worried sister Maude (Jen Morris) from the start of the show with “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Charlie’s first solo is an ode to how much she dislikes the snow and cold, living as she has in the arctic with British singer Kate Rusby’s “Little Jack Frost,” from her 2005 album “The Girl Who Couldn’t Fly.” Jen Morris in the role of Maude makes a good showing with “Everybody’s Waiting for the Man with the Bag” made famous by Kay Starr and Lee Ann Womack. And Peter Riopelle does it up like Elvis in the role of Alex with “Merry Christmas Baby.”
Each of the four performers except Holly who remains Charlie throughout the show play dual roles. Jen Morris doubles as Skylar in the second act with a beautiful version of “Silent Night.” And Peter Riopelle shows up as Larry, the Christmas Elf, sent to check on Charlie and dials it down with a sweet “The First Noel.”
The performers are professional and over-flowing with talent, like every cast that has taken the stage in celebration of Christmas going back to the start of the Cornwell’s Dinner Theatre in 1987. The singing is strong, the acting well styled, and the direction by Top Hat producer Dennis McKeen is smart and well-orchestrated.
Unlike many past shows, this year’s Christmas tribute features less zany humor and goofy antics. There’s more moods like the gentle fall of snow at twilight. There are quiet and somber moments, and the characters remind the audience that Christmas exists to honor the birth of Jesus Christ. This tone is best exemplified by the graceful and radiant final number as the cast joins together in four-part harmony on Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” made famous by Jeff Buckley on his 1994 album “Grace” and then later by Rufus Wainwright for the movie “Shrek.”
This heart-wrenching, emotionally moving song sounds the final, striking note of this fine Christmas production.
In the end, Charlie the Christmas elf leaves the cast and the audience with some sage words of wisdom: “Sometimes in life you don’t get what want when you want it; you get it, when you need it.” As audiences join the cast in a post-curtain-call sing-a-long, these words strike the central chord of the holiday spirit. And after a full turkey dinner and family-style fellowship, audiences leave this theater happier than when they arrived. Make this part of your holiday celebration.
On a personal note, for most of the last fifteen years, I brought my mother as my guest to see these Christmas shows after a bout of bacterial meningitis in 2000 left her mostly paralyzed. She loved these Christmas shows. A few years ago, when producer Dennis Mckeen dropped the sing-a-long from the show, my mother complained, and the next year, he returned the audience singing to the show just for her. My mother passed away in July from a degenerative palsy brought on by the meningitis. My father and I attended this Christmas show as the first one without her, and the fine folks of Top Hat productions dedicated the sing-a-long to my mother Marjorie Tower, making this year’s Christmas show more special then ever before.
Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.
- Days ago = 149 days ago
- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1512.01 - 10:10
and again 1512.03 - 8:20