Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

December 13, 2022

REVIEW: Goodspeed Musicals, “Christmas in Connecticut”

Goodspeed Opera House, East Haddam, CT
through December 30, 2022
by R.E. Smith

As light and fluffy as an early December snow, “A Connecticut Christmas” floats down to the Goodspeed to dress things up for the holiday season. Although based on the 1945 Barbara Stanwyck film of the same name, only the broadest strokes of the original remain. Independent, forward thinking woman journalist, Liz Sanborn, moonlights as the writer of a very successful “perfect housewife” magazine column, despite not having a domestic bone in her body. When asked to host an American war hero for Christmas at her “perfect” Connecticut farm, she must enlist her friends to help her fake her way through the festivities.

Photo by Diane Sobolewski
Where the playwrights succeed in their rewrite is in filling in Liz’s backstory, which was missing from the movie. They set up solid connections between characters and an understandable explanation as to how and why Liz and her editor Dudley concoct the original scheme. There are some clever movie call-backs as well, from names to whole passages of dialogue. But the introduction of new characters makes for one romantic relationship too many and the attractions are based more on the needs of the plot then through any organic attraction.

The score’s style is well influenced by the big band sound of the time period, with “A Capital Idea”, “The Most Famous Jefferson” and “Something’s Fishy” really hitting the big Broadway notes. While converting the presentation into a musical makes sense in crafting a holiday confection, many of the songs are quite specific to the show. One hopes for more universal tunes that could become standards as “White Christmas” did, but there are details that keep most locked to the story. “May You Inherit” which closes out the show, does succeed in that regard by delivering a broader sentiment.

It is the performances that make up for any weaknesses, though, as the leads are all top-notch. Audrey Cardwell, as Liz, is on stage almost the entire show and she has a commanding confidence backed by a lovely, strong voice. It is clear to see why she was recently the understudy for Marian in the Broadway revival of “The Music Man”. James Judy and Tina Stafford are crowd pleasers, making the most of their comedic moments as Liz’s Hungarian culinary secret weapon and a flustered housekeeper. Their delightful duet “Blame It on the Old Magoo”, was disappointingly short, and begs to be expanded into a full number. Matt Bogart as Victor Beecham, Dudley’s socialist farmer brother, and Josh Breckenridge as our soldier hero each get their moment in the spotlight, and they make great use of their commanding voices and presence. Breckenridge especially gets the opportunity to show real range, playing both comedy and light drama, endearing himself to the audience with playful charism.

“A Connecticut Christmas” is packed with a little bit of everything, from slapstick to romance, tap-dancing to social commentary. Like a holiday fruitcake, it may not be a perfect dessert, but it is sweet, a little nutty and comfortable, with some bright pops of color. Any fan of the Goodspeed with find it worth sampling.