Sander’s Family Christmas

By Connie Raysanders family christmas

Conceived by Alan Bailey

Directed by Tim Gregory

Musical Director: Larry Rothbard

At Provision Theatre, Chicago

The revisit to the Sander’s family rings hollow

The Sander’s Family Christmas finds the same white evangelicals in 1941 at Christmas time celebrating Jesus birth and the US entry into World War II. This hooky hillbilly show is a hollow remounting of Smoke On the Mountain mounted by Provision Theatre in May of 2008. That show worked on the intimate stage at the Viaduct Theatre as a novelty bluegrass musical.

sanders family christmas

The Christmas Sander’s show simply doesn’t work as the larger stage and all the ‘testifying’ (preaching and religious storytelling) slowed the show to a crawl. The dated references to the war and the down-home rural traits wore thin over 2 hours. The music also played poorly as many of the songs were difficult to hear as guitars and the piano drowned out some solos. But my biggest difficulty with this show were all the boring testifying. I thought I was going to see a Christmas show, not visit a Evangelical church service. I was also offended by the religious justification for war that came from the preachers in words and song.

sanders family christmas

I though Kevin O’Brien played the Reverend Mervin Oglethrope as a manic, obnoxious jerk who tried to upstage everyone to the point of being an irritant. With the sound problems and the bland bluegrass tunes (where was a banjo?), Sander’s Family Christmas is a too long and too religious a show that is more of a church service than a play or music concert. This sequel is a carbon copy of the original sans the fine musicianship.  This formula bombs as a Christmas show.  I wonder who the audience is for this turkey? It plays like a hillbilly church service that is not exactly fare for  sophisticated Chicago audiences.  A strange choice for a Provision Theatre Company that usually mounts outstanding shows.

Not Recommended

Tom Williams

At Provision Theatre, 1001 W.Roosevelt Road, Chicago, IL, call 866-811-4111,, tickets $25 – $28, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission, through December 23, 2010