REVIEW: Give Yourself the Gift of Avon Players’ Holiday Variety Show ‘Forever Christmas’

Three years ago as I sat waiting for this show to start, I was worn out and my Christmas spirit was nearly nonexistent. I had doubts if a holiday variety show would be able to change the way I felt, but it did. And I’m happy to say this year’s production, playing until December 14 in Rochester Hills, MI, sent my spirits soaring once again!

In an age where you start to wonder if anyone has anything new or relevant to say, Avon Players President John (JD) Deierlein gifts us with his original holiday variety show. Sure, some of the songs are familiar, but they are presented in a way that makes you feel as if you’re hearing, really hearing, the words for the first time. For two hours the nearly capacity all-ages audience was immersed in the merriment of the season through song, holiday hilarity, and poignant storytelling.

Left to Right: Principal singers Sherri Angelotti, Clay Hargrave, Kirsten Renas, Matt Cason and Lori Smith.
Photo Credit: Bryan Clifford.

Out of the five principal singers, four are familiar faces on the Avon Players stage: Matt Cason and Kirsten Renas (Company), and Clayton Hargrave and Lori Smith (The Hunchback of Notre Dame). Newcomer Sherri Angelotti fit in perfectly and I look forward to seeing her in future productions. The songs covered ranged from jubilant to reflective and each vocalist was given a chance to shine. In Act One, the most memorable tunes were “Jing-A-Ling,” sung by Kirsten, Lori, and Sherri. It is a fun throwback to girl groups like The Andrew Sisters or even the more contemporary Puppini Sisters. Clayton and Matt do a breathtaking rendition of “Angels We Have Heard on High.” Let’s be honest, it isn’t easy making the drawn-out phrase ‘Gloria In Excelsis Deo’ sound like it belongs on the radio, but they nail it. If this version was on iTunes I would definitely buy it. “No Eye Had Seen” closes out the first act in a powerful and stirring fashion. In Act Two, principal actor Johannah Steinbrecher-Booker uses American Sign Language to accompany the principal singers’ rendition of “Breath of Heaven.” As theatre productions continue to take steps to be more inclusive for those attending their performances, I appreciated this gesture. I’m not sure if it was his brocade blazer or the cascade of curls that kept falling in his face, but when Matt Cason sang “Let It Snow!” I kept picturing country singer Thomas Rhett. Not so much that there’s a twang in his voice, but rather there’s a little something extra that makes you take notice.

Left to Right: Principal actors Anthony Sherman (Santa), Bodi Johnson (Boy),
Katie Jostock (Elf) and Johannah Steinbrecher-Booker (Mom).
Photo Credit: Bryan Clifford.

As I mentioned earlier, there are dashes of humor sprinkled throughout the show highlighting some of the funnier, but painfully relatable holiday scenarios. Helping to convey these comedic sentiments were Bodi Johnson (Marvin’s Room), newcomer Katie Jostock, Anthony Sherman, and the always hilarious Johannah Steinbrecher-Booker (Mamma Mia!). The two sketches that stood out the most (and put the audience in stitches) were ‘The Friend Who Loves Christmas’ and ‘Aunt Chippy Wraps a Present.’ The former takes aim at all those premature Christmas decorators out there and the latter focuses on the frustrations of a sassy senior citizen who I daresay more than one person in the audience saw as a kindred spirit. Another treat this variety show gives its audiences are meaningful stories presented by special guest Chuck Daugherty.

For those not familiar with the name, Daugherty is a Michigan native and legendary radio personality whose credits include work as an actor on the Detroit-produced The Lone Ranger. He also has the distinction of having subbed for Dick Clark on American Bandstand. Daugherty’s deep and reassuring dulcet tones give the audience time to slow down and reflect on what this season is all about.

While holiday staples such as The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol are wonderful ways to celebrate the season, I believe there is room for a show like Forever Christmas on your calendar. The holidays come and go quicker every year. Slow down and treat yourself to the opportunity to soak in and appreciate what really matters. As the song says, “The miracle has just begun! God bless us, everyone!”

There is a 15-minute intermission.

Tickets for all shows are $22 ($20 on Sundays for students and seniors). Call 248-608-9077 for tickets or order online at www.AvonPlayers.org. Group rates are available by calling the box office. “Like” Avon Players Theatre on Facebook for special offers on tickets. Visa and MasterCard are accepted. All seats are reserved.

Get in the holiday spirit at one of these remaining performances:

  • Friday, December 6               8:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 7           8:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 8             2:00 p.m.
  • Friday, December 13             8:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 14         8:00 p.m.
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.

Comments

  1. Casmiera Polchowski says:

    I absolutely loved Forever Christmas it was very uplifting and reverent.All the singers were stupendous and I really loved the skits with the ever so talented Johannah Steinbrecher Booker,she always makes every show she is in a pleasurable experience. BRAVO Avon players

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