REVIEW: ‘Forever Christmas’ Sings Hope Into the Holidays

Settling into my seat at opening night of Avon Players’ holiday revue ‘Forever Christmas,’ I looked around and wondered if any of the other patrons at the packed performance felt like I did: tired. This has just been a long, strange year; a year where beloved cultural icons have been leaving us at a dizzying pace, not to mention the recent election. It just seems like 2016 has been one curve ball after another and I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m ready for it to be over. I guess I was feeling a little like the Grinch with a heart that’s three sizes too small.

Principle singers from left to right: Jennifer Combs, John (JD) Deierlein, Jill Sloan, Dan Romzek & Lori Smith. Photo Credit: Bryan Clifford.

Principle singers from left to right: Jennifer Combs, John (JD) Deierlein, Jill Sloan, Dan Romzek & Lori Smith. Photo Credit: Bryan Clifford.

As the lights dimmed, the five singers—Jennifer Coombs (Alto), John (JD) Deierlein (Bass), Jill Sloan (2nd Soprano), Lori Smith (Soprano), and Dan Romzek (Tenor)—got right into the merriment with the peppy “Come On It’s Christmas.” It was nice to see JD Deierlein, who is normally working magic behind-the-scenes, getting an opportunity to highlight his vocals skills. Incidentally, ‘Forever Christmas’ was created by Deierlein, who told the audience their arrangement of “O Come, All Ye Faithful” would be a “modern twist on an old standard.” In truth, that statement could be applied to the entire show. The over 20 songs showcased throughout the almost two-hour performance were familiar, yet fresh in their presentation and enthusiasm. In addition to the tight harmonies of the group, the ladies turned in powerful solo performances, while the men did a fantastic job with the Bing Crosby and David Bowie mashup “The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth.” Another vocal highlight included “Jing-A-Ling” sung by Coombs, Sloan, and Smith. If you’re a fan of The Andrews Sisters, this will definitely put a smile on your face.

Principle Actor, Kim Monterosso, tells the touching true-life story of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow backed up by singers left to right Jennifer Combs, Dan Romzek, Jill Sloan, John (JD) Deierlein, & Lori Smith. Photo Credit: Bryan Clifford.

Principle Actor, Kim Monterosso, tells the touching true-life story of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow backed up by singers left to right Jennifer Combs, Dan Romzek, Jill Sloan, John (JD) Deierlein, & Lori Smith.
Photo Credit: Bryan Clifford.

Interspersed throughout the show are six scenes that touch on holiday headaches such as, is Santa Claus real? How celebrating the season has become a politically correct minefield, and gift-giving anxiety. Actors Steve Grady, Emily Locke, Kim Monterosso, and Johannah Steinbrecher-Booker hilariously provide these much-needed moments of holiday cheer. In my opinion, Steinbrecher-Booker steals most of the scenes with her spot-on comedic timing; coming across as equal parts Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon. And Monterosso’s stirring monologue “Longfellow’s Christmas” poignantly reminds the audience that while life’s circumstances may not always be ideal, we must always have hope and work on making the days ahead ones of unity and peace.

Suddenly, I felt my heart growing. Looking around, I got the sense that the mood of the room had also changed. Yes. The world has given us many reasons to be sad or discouraged, but for a short time, in the darkness of the theatre, a light shone to remind us there are also reasons to keep moving forward. ‘Forever Christmas’ is more than just ‘a warm and wonderful holiday revue.’ It is a reminder that together we’re going to be OK. So, don’t just come to see the show, but rather make an evening out of it. Visit Downtown Rochester and check out the Big, Bright Light Show. Look at storefronts and sit down for a meal. Engage in a little goodwill towards man. Take your time and take it all in. And then come enjoy an evening of holiday hope with ‘Forever Christmas.’

Tickets for remaining performances can be purchased here or at the Avon Players box office.

Performance dates are:

Friday, December 2 at 8 p.m.

Saturday, December 3 at 8 p.m.

Sunday, December 4 at 2 p.m.

Friday, December 9 at 8 p.m.

Saturday, December 10 at 8 p.m.

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About Sarah Hovis

Word manipulator, arts appreciator, sports spectator, and world traveler, Sarah charts her own course as the owner of saliho creative. She uses her creative mind and engaging dialogue to fearlessly bring the written word to life in print and online… all while keeping a watchful eye out for the next literary adventure. You can reach her at sarah@rochestermedia.com.

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