Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

December 1, 2007

"Christmastime is Here"

Exit 7 Players, Ludlow
Weekends through December 15
By Donna Bailey-Thompson

If you want to be entertained and charmed, check out the Exit 7 Players’ "Christmastime Is Here," an original musical production that rediscovers the enchantment and humor within this hectic season.

For a cast that ranges in age from seven to decades more, the premise is ideal: dress rehearsal of a Christmas musical review. Their director is harried but everyone else is relaxed, upbeat. The first non-catastrophe is the unfinished painting of a cut-out horse (for drawing the sleigh) which the sleigh’s passengers take turns pushing and pulling, all the while singing, of course, "Sleighride." The power of a well-paced performance is off to the races.

There are 22 acts, all done well and some are outstanding. Such as a condensed version of "The Nutcracker" performed to Tchaikovsky’s music by the children’s ensemble and a few key adults (the Nutcracker, the Sugar Plum Fairy). The choreography (Aileen Merino Terzi and Amy Szczepaniuk Meek) is pleasing and appropriate for the fledgling corps de ballet. Mice, the Nutcracker’s army, The Russian Dance, The Chinese Dance (super delightful), and a dazzling Christmas tree – and that was only the third act.

Mini bursts of levity included a running gag (sometimes literally) of a cast member’s determination to sandwich in her rendition of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" in spite of the director’s objection; pantomimes of Guy vs. Tangled Lights while Gal Wrestles with Wrapping; and of two last-minute, desperate shoppers squabbling over a piece of clothing which they render into pieces.

In this spirited, gentle, amusing, wholesome musical, the commercialization of Christmas is banished. Instead simplified pleasures prevail, including the readings and recitations of Christmas classics and a letter from Iraq, a living Nativity scene, even a Carol sing and a rafter-rockin’ "Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree."

The Exit 7 Players’ Christmas show generates good cheer. Kudos to the writers and creators of "Christmastime Is Here" – Rebecca Sullivan, Robert Sullivan-Neer, Amanda Davis and Andy White; and to Director Amanda Davis; Musical Director Bonni Drumheller; Technical Director and Master Carpenter Paul Hamel; Calvin Anderson’s Lighting Design.

And bravo to the talented, enthusiastic cast, all 39 of them – the Adult Ensemble (16) and the Children’s Ensemble (23).

Next: Arthur Miller’s "All My Sons" in February 2008