Directed by Michael Potsic
Musical Direction by Aaron Benham
By Kokandy Productions
At Theater Wit, Chicago
Unfocused too sweet Christmas show quickly wears out its welcome
Kokandy Productions over the last few years has mounted some terrific shows including the fabulous Loving Repeating. They now have a new Christmas show, A Kokandy Christmas running at Theater Wit. I had mixed feeling about this show. First, without explanation, the show started 15 minutes late. Next, the show opens with a manic dance infused Christmas song that I never heard of (there is no song list in the program nor on the press release). This energetic movement evoked a too sweet, over enthusiastic sense of Christmas spirit. This Christmas revue reminded me of those old TV Christmas shows, but this show contains many contemporary and unknown Christmas songs.
The tone sure was too hyper-Christmas, too sweet for my taste. The cast of Emily Grayson, Christina Hall, Garrett Lutz, Jaymes Osbourne, and Sasha Smith and the three musicians each told their Christmas memories, then performed a sentimental Christmas song. Those moments were fine, but the attempt at humor became tasteless when drummer Scott Simon’s story about the “Little Drummer Boy” resulted in a mockery of that traditional holiday song. That colored my impression of this show: the change of tones and the over produced dance-infused numbers seemed forced.
The best part of the show came from the three piece combo led by the terrific Aaron Benham. The music dominated this show. If this show is to become a yearly event, the creatives at Kokandy Productions need to rethink their focus. If it is to be a sweet, sentimental and nostalgic Christmas memory show, then do that only. Forget the over staged dances and the parodies of some holiday songs. Adding more traditional Christmas tunes would help. I’d also put all the relatively unknown songs in the program and I’d have the singers introduce each of the contemporary tunes. I’m not sure if this show contains any original tunes? I sort of knew some of the holiday tunes, I think?
Lastly, I’d simplify the show’s focus, as despite being only 75 minutes, A Kokandy Christmas played long. It simply tried to do too much. But those who long for a “new” Christmas show will find excellent music and fine singing in a refreshing sweet tribute to the spirit of Christmas. If you see this show, you’ll not need any sugar for days!
Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: December 6, 2015
For more info checkout the A Kokandy Christmas page at theatreinchicago.com
At Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL, call 773-97508150, www.kokandyproductions.com, tickets $30, Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 & 8 pm, Sundays at 3 & 7 pm,running time is 75 minutes without an intermission, through December 23, 2015