“Unwrapped: A Rockin’ Holiday Spectacular” – The Phoenix Theatre Company

Theater Review – December 6, 2020


The Phoenix Theatre Company
Outdoor Theatre, Courtyard, Central United Methodist Church
Phoenix, AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

During the holidays, a musical tribute to these festive times is always welcome especially in this bleak year.  But while The Phoenix Theatre Company’s revue “Unwrapped: A Rockin’ Holiday Spectacular” premiered with a quintet of top singers and a spirited back-up band plus two dozen songs – both familiar and unfamiliar – the concert lacks holiday jollity.

The performers are costumed in drab, everyday clothes while the band is garbed in somber black.  There’s little staging in this bland holiday concert.  Some excellent video clips bring an iota of holiday spirit to the production but that’s about it visually.  The Phoenix Theatre Company has staged several holiday shows over the years so their costume storage must be filled with abundant attire which would have enlivened the show by adding festive color.  Clever staging would have sparked lively spunk into the tunes.

The excellent singers and fine band bring new arrangements to the tunes but they tend to transform recognizable and traditional songs into throbbing, beat-laden affairs which don’t often work with these well-known and classic holiday tunes.

The performers got into the swinging arrangements including Lynzee Foreman’s shaking and jiving “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” Walter Belcher’s spiritually soaring “Mary, Did You Know?,” Alyssa Chiarello’s hilarious “Where are you Christmas (The Grinch),” Alexandra Ncube’s haunting “A Kwanzaa Song,” and Sam Primack’s funny take on Adam Sandler’s “The Chanukah Song.”  There were several ensemble numbers and duets of songs crying for more holiday feel and a medley of sing along tunes fell flat opening night with just part of the small opening night audience participating.

At the end of the overlong show, audiences should be in a holiday mood.  Unfortunately, not this observer who was so cold in the outdoor theater where temperatures were in the 50s on opening night that it made me anxious to leave and I lacked any holiday sparkle.

“Unwrapped” is a tuneful show performed by top singers and musicians but couldn’t this show look holiday festive?  Other than the cute projected videos, the show doesn’t instill much holiday merriment.  Polite applause by the opening night audience made me wonder how spirited the group felt.  The show runs through December 23.  For tickets to “Unwrapped: A Rockin’ Holiday Spectacular,” contact The Phoenix Theatre Company box office at 602-254-2151or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: C