Flat Rock Playhouse brings holiday magic to life with reimagined Christmas show

Published 7:51 am Wednesday, November 29, 2023

“A Flat Rock Playhouse Christmas Show” runs through Dec. 21

For its 17th year, Flat Rock Playhouse has reinvented its annual Christmas extravaganza, this year presenting new holiday music and reimagined classics that even this old and roasted chestnut found spirit-lifting.

Like family gatherings, indulgent meals and opening gifts, “A Flat Rock Playhouse Christmas Show” is a holiday tradition of live music and dance that showcases the performance talents of locals and professional up-and-coming stars. This past Saturday afternoon, the parking lot was packed and folks were eagerly waiting to enter the historic theater that was decked out with greenery, colorful ornaments and lights inside and out. The house was full this opening weekend, with shows continuing through December 21.

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There were 26 song, dance, and musical performances in the two-act/two-hour show. The 10-member cast included Maddie Franke, Gabriela Gomez, Amanda Tong, Kathleen Watson, Patrick Dinnsen, Brandon Keith Rogers, Galloway Stevens and J. Taylor Wright, who performed most of the numbers. Paul Babelay (percussion) and Ryan Guerra (strings) were also featured in the three-band man headed by Musical Director/pianist Ethan Andersen. In keeping with On-The-Rock traditions, Pat’s School of Dance provided tappers, modern dancers and the ever-popular Flat Rockettes for spectacular high-kicking, the likes of New York City’s Radio City Music Hall. Also in keeping with tradition, the Flat Rock Playhouse Chorus sang back-up.

The show features the ever-popular Flat Rockettes (Photo by Steve Wong)

 

Director Lisa K. Bryant saw fit to present several new songs to the line-up, along with classics reworked just enough to be fresh, but not overly high brow or heard-before traditional. Here’s a tip: listen very closely to the words of the opening song Wonderful Christmas. It was such a nice touch of creativity for some of the lyrics to be rewritten to reflect the uniqueness of Flat Rock Playhouse and the community. 

Highlights include “Christmas, Don’t Be Late,” performed in the fashion of Alvin and the Chipmunks by Franke, Wright, and Tong. To get just the right pitch and a lot of audience giggles, the three performers relied on helium-filled balloons to give them that cartoonish high pitch that brings back memories from childhood. Another favorite of mine was “Run, Rudolph, Run,” a rock-a-billy delight sung in style by Dinnsen.

Very unexpected but much appreciated was a rap version of “Up On the Housetop” by the entire cast. And, although painfully relevant to the times, I enjoyed  “Someday at Christmas,” sung by Rogers. Written in 1967 by Stevie Wonder, I was reminded of today’s conflicts in the Middle East and Western Europe… 

Someday at Christmas men won’t be boys

Playing with bombs like kids play with toys

One warm December our hearts will see

A world where men are free

I’m not one to tear-up over lyrics, but even I had to swallow the lump in my throat created by Roger’s sincerity.

To say “A Flat Rock Christmas” has something for everyone is an understatement. But what must be said is that for me and hundreds of other theatre-lovers, this show is an absolute must for anyone looking for the Christmas spirit. By the time the cast and crew rally with “Joy to the World,” always closing number, your heart should be like the Grinch’s and grow three times its size for the love of the season.

 

“A Flat Rock Playhouse Christmas Show” features 26 performances (Photo by Steve Wong)