Rockin' Christmas Party
Local Arts Reviews
Reviewed by Barry Pineo, Fri., Dec. 19, 2003
Rockin' Christmas PartyParamount Theatre, through Dec. 20
2 hrs., 30 min.
If you're looking for something really loud, bright, fast, and flashy, then head on down to the Paramount, where Zachary Scott Theatre Center is holding its annual Rockin' Christmas Party. Every city and town in the country undoubtedly has its own Christmas traditions, and Zach has introduced at least two to Austin: The Santaland Diaries, currently playing on Zach's Arena Stage, and this annual holiday fete featuring the cast of Beehive.
I saw the very first performance of Beehive way back in the early Nineties. It was one of those shows that was magical from the get-go, and it's a tribute to director Dave Steakley that he's managed to keep so many of the people involved in that production together for so long. Andra Mitrovich, Felicia Dinwiddie, and Rebecca Schoolar contribute the usual pop standards and seasonal favorites here, joined by singers Quincy Kuykendall and Dan Sullivan and dancers Kasey Erin Eggleston and Jennifer Young. For a solid 21/2 hours, each puts out like crazy, singing and dancing with barely a break. Highlights include the inimitable Judy Arnold just about every time she exercises her vocal cords, but especially on "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and "Silent Night" (and an emphatic nod to musical director Allen Robertson for his pleasing and original arrangement of the latter Christmas standard).
Most of the time, though, I felt like I was being sold a bill of goods. The opening sequence, which lasts 17 minutes, never goes beyond the bombastic and the frenetic. (Did I mention that it's really loud?) The script, such as it is, hangs by a bare thread: Because they've all been so good, Santa has decided to give each of the singers their own personal Christmas fantasy, so we get sequences like Sullivan as Elvis and Schoolar as a Dolly Partonish country diva. But after all these years of beehives and parties, who needs an excuse to hear these people sing? It all seemed forced and under-rehearsed, especially the dances, and the technical aspects didn't always help, either. While the flamboyant costumes, huge, colorful sets, and even more huge, equally colorful wigs that designer Michael Raiford provided were appropriate, there was barely a subtle choice in sight, and the same goes for Jason Amato's lights, which seemed to use everything but the kitchen sink (and I think I just missed the sink). The lack of subtlety extended to Roy Taylor's sound, which seemed to have three volumes: Loud, Loud, and Hey, I Think My Left Eardrum Just Burst. Sometimes it was so loud, the set vibrated visibly. Because he didn't try to sell me a thing, I enjoyed young Bryan Pacheco's dancing as Rudolph, and this was true of the most effective part of the show as well, during the second act, when the singers did little more than stand in front of a huge tinsel curtain in fairly plain, unadorned costumes, and just sang. I could have used a lot more of that.
I seemed to be in the minority, as the almost full house constantly shouted and clapped its approval. But as my guest and I were walking out of the theatre, a little girl, strangely expressing both the audience's and my sentiments, said, "That was a lot of fun. And it was really loud." It was, too.