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Curtain Calls XTRA

By |2002-04-12T09:00:00-04:00April 12th, 2002|Uncategorized|

By John Quinn

Review: ‘The Radio City Christmas Spectacular’
With apologies to Clement C. Moore: ‘An Anapest Christmas’

‘Twas the night of the op’ning and all ’round the Fox
All the traffic was tied up for three or four blocks.
As I drove an Explorer, I felt like a goof,
With eight tiny reindeer, I could park on the roof!
We arrived by the thousands, we arrived by the tons,
All the mothers and fathers and daughters and sons
And a few “confirmed bachelors,” to see, don’t you know
The eighth annual Christmas Spectacular show.
What brings us all back? Chalk it up to “tradition.”
For the show hasn’t changed much from last year’s rendition.
But what do we care? It defies all the trends!
We greet every number like dear, long-lost friends.
Our good host is Santa, Kris Kringle himself,
He’s a singing and dancing right jolly old elf.
The number that picks up just post-intermission?
Its name is “I’m There,” it’s a sprightly rendition
(And delight to the children!), a dance without pause,
By two dozen costumed portrayers of Claus.
But the featured performers are still the Rockettes,
An unparalleled troupe, in possession of sets
Of beautiful legs that stretch down to the floor,
Which they’ve costumed to show off in sequins galore.
But there’s something for ev’ryone – set aside cares!
You’ll be charmed by the sight of a ballet by bears
Or precision toy soldiers, and rag dolls and all
This production has just what it takes to enthrall!
Now it’s easy to quibble, “Oh what is the use
Of a critic who rhymes like a lame Dr. Seuess?
But to fine shows and poetry let’s raise a cup –
Opportunities just too damn good to pass up!
“The Radio City Christmas Spectacular” Scheduled for 52 performances at the fabulous Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit, through Dec. 26. Tickets: $20.50 – 65.50. 313-471-6611. www.olympiaentertainment.com.
The Bottom Line: With costumes so gorgeous and dancing so tight, oh, the Christmas Spectacular’s QUITE the good night!

Review: ‘He is Christmas’
Plowshares tells original Christmas story in highly original production

In order for something to become a tradition, you’ve got to do it more than once. Happily, a tradition has been established as Plowshares Theatre Company revives last year’s original production, “He is Christmas.”
This is not a Christmas story – it’s THE Christmas story, anchored solidly by the African American religious experience. Artistic Director Gary Anderson has adapted the script from New Testament texts, filled it out with original music by Marvin Thompson, Jr. and added a number of old standards.
“The Pastor,” played by newcomer Michael Turner, is no ordained minister; he’s a street musician working for quarters. It’s a nice touch – instead of bringing the Good News to the open hearts of a congregation, he’s hammering at the stony shell of passers by. Persistent, he draws them into the story as they assume the timeless characters of the Nativity, reenacting the tale through African-inspired storytelling.
Director John E. Woolridge III, a 2003 Wilde Award nominee, makes the most of his relatively small cast. William McLin, returning in the role of Joseph, slips into the role as easily as he slips into his costume robe. His vocal power is just right to ornament the gospel inspired music. I remember, though, his number, “Plenty Good Room,” which accompanies Joseph’s search for housing in Bethlehem, was an absolute delight in the original production. Here it seems curiously subdued.
McLin is paired this year with Ashaki Zeigler as Mary, an actress blessed by a sweet and powerful soprano voice.
New music for this year’s production seems more in the pop than jazz tradition – not that it ever strays too far from its gospel roots. And we welcome, like old friends at the holidays, familiar songs and hymns gracefully decked out in jazz style, backed by an onstage trio. And even better for the music lovers among us, the evolution of the script is leaving openings for even more original music. That trio of angels announcing the coming birth to Mary are good enough to get a number all their own; one can imagine the harmonies possible!
Even if you dismiss the idea of “tradition” at this time of year, this is a painless and entertaining way of “getting into the holiday spirit.
“He is Christmas” Staged Thursday through Sunday by the Plowshares Theatre Company at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, 315 E. Warren, Detroit, through Dec. 24. Tickets: $15 – $30. 313-872-0279. www.plowshares.org.
The Bottom Line: The music and storytelling of this uniquely African American version of the Nativity are welcome additions to Christmas in Detroit.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.