|Robert Head, Grace Allen, Debbie Hunter, Ryan Reilly, Laura McCulloch, and Malia Tippets. |
Photo by Sam Ortega.
By Tina Arth
Broadway Rose is opening the holiday show season with a bang – a sparkling collection of songs old and new, mixing humor with breathtaking beauty, loosely bound by a thoroughly implausible wraparound script as magic-laden as the season itself. If you, like me, are sorely in need of a quick infusion of Christmas spirit, Your Holiday Hit Parade fills the bill delightfully. Co-authors Rick Lewis (also musical arranger) and Dan Murphy (also director) have assembled a festive revue and an inspired cast to deliver a family-friendly evening that should appeal to all but the most-Grinch-like audiences.
The show opens with two bedraggled travelers, Bea and Helen, on a pilgrimage to see Mt. McKinley before it officially becomes Mt. Denali. They stumble into Aurora’s Borealis, a seemingly deserted but otherwise intact tourist lodge well off the beaten track in Alaska. They need shelter while they wait for rescue – their car has broken down and both the temperature and the batteries on their phone are dropping low. A lively burst of “Jingle Bells” from the two women flushes out 4 shy, pale strangers from upstairs, apparently drawn by the mention of bells. Soon their secret is revealed – they are entertainers whose show was due to open Christmas, 1972 when a massive avalanche buried the inn, trapping them inside – they are ghosts! The rest of the evening is filled with a mixture of solos and ensemble work as the cast powers through old favorites, from their exquisite “Bell Medley” to “White Christmas” and “Christmas Auld Lang Syne,” some fun novelty songs (the entire “Cowboy Christmas Medley” and many others), and some pure silliness like “I’m Spending Hanukkah In Santa Monica” and Rick Lewis’ gender-bending rewrite, “Babe There’s A Cab Outside.” Will the ghosts be freed after giving their final performance? Will Bea and Helen’s Uber driver find them amid the snowy wastes? You’ll need to go see the show to find out!
The four ghosts, each with some exquisite solo moments but even more moving in the ensemble arrangements, are Marguerite (Grace Allen), Roy (Robert Head), Rusty (Ryan Reilly), and Marjorie (Malia Tippets). Interspersed among the quartet’s classics are numbers by Helen (Debbie Hunter) and Bea (Laura McCulloch) with their mid-Western, down-to earth modern attitudes and consistently upbeat delivery – bringing a playfully wry note with songs like “Sisters,” “Santa Baby,” and of course Ray Stevens’ quirky “Santa Claus Is Watching You.”
The costuming is elaborate but a bit anachronistic (for the ghosts) – by 1972 even ingénues on Hee-Haw and The Lawrence Welk Show had straighter hair and shorter skirts – but it really makes no difference, and I just pretended that it was based on the styles of 1964. The set, on the other hand, is spot on – everything you’d expect in a perfectly preserved country lodge, augmented by a constantly changing video screen to help create the requisite mood. While there’s a piano on the stage, and cast members frequently respond to the cue “give me an E,” the real music comes from conductor Jeffrey Childs’ little band – and courtesy of clever use of the video projection, we occasionally get to see shadows of pianist Childs, bassist Will Amend, and drummer Mitch Wilson as they work their magic behind the scenes.
As soon as Thanksgiving hits the road, I always start to “Need a Little Christmas,” this year perhaps more than most. I am grateful to Broadway Rose for immersing me in holiday mode with their delightful show, and judging from the audience’s enthusiastic opening night acclaim I am not alone in my response. This is an evening that should not be missed.
Your Holiday Hit Parade is playing at Broadway Rose’s New Stage, 12850 SW Grant Avenue, Tigard through Saturday, December 23d. See their website (broadwayrose.org) for specific performance dates and times.