“Holly Jolly Christmas” – Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ December 1, 2008


Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre
Mesa, AZ

With Thanksgiving over, holiday theater begins. During the next few weeks, I will be reviewing both traditional and several new holiday shows. “Holly Jolly Christmas,” the first holiday show to debut, is the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre’s warmly entertaining, festive, and family-oriented tribute. The traditional parts of “Holly Jolly Christmas” are the best. The one non-traditional number, among the seven vignettes that comprise the show, is the only segment that disappoints.

As always, Broadway Palm’s ensemble, filled with young talent, use expert dancing and singing to bring joy to this heart-warming show.

The first act starts by introducing the company in a large-scale production number that rivals the best of any local stage holiday tribute. The number also introduces the jovial glee of Chuck Caruso’s warmly gracious Mr. Claus who, with Beth Brandel’s spunky Mrs. Claus, serves as our hosts throughout this holiday celebration. The initial segment, “The Wide World of Holiday Cheer,” takes us round the globe to celebrate the holidays with various cultures based on their own traditions, geography, and climate.

The show then moves to a Christmas celebration here followed by a charming section that emphasizes children’s holiday views.

After the intermission, the show takes that non-traditional excursion as Santa and his wife host a jumpin,’ jivin,’ and swingin’ Christmas holiday. This segment is the least entertaining as it takes the show on a rock ‘n’ roll holiday journey.

A rather abrupt transition takes us back to Christ’s birth in a moving Nativity reflection that reminds us of the season’s true celebration. After this somber tale, “Holly Jolly Christmas” ends with an elaborate holiday finale.

The production looks sharp with resplendent Victorian-themed sets, plus an array of festively colored costumes. The band gives the tunes verve and gusto while the cast sings and dances with energy and precision.

Caruso’s Santa is warm and genial but with just a welcome hint of skepticism at the festivities. Brandel’s Mrs. Claus clones the theater’s usual Christmas show star, Elizabeth Loos, who can’t be here this season. While spirited, Brandel is no Loos.

If traditional holiday carols, festive production numbers, and a spirited cast delivering wonderful tributes with energized panache are your thing, “Holly Jolly Christmas” will put you in a winsome holiday mood. In today’s tough economic times, “Holly Jolly Christmas,” with its bountiful buffet before, is an excellent value. It continues through December 25. For tickets, call the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre box office at 480-325-6700 or go online at www.broadwaypalmwest.com.

Grade: C