Review: The Christmas Revels’ ‘A Nordic Celebration of the Winter Solstice in Music, Dance, and Drama’ at Lisner Auditorium

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The Winter Solstice is still several days away, but that shortest and often darkest day of the year will be a great treat for anyone observing it, with the crowds who headed last weekend to a packed Lisner Auditorium for the return of  The Christmas Revels in this year’s spectacular A Nordic Celebration of the Winter Solstice in Music, Dance, and Drama.

Christmas shows and pageants abound in Washington at this time of year, but the Revels is in a league of its own. Imagine if you will, a cast of over 100 people, ages 8 through 85, taking the audience through traditional material from the five Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. This show is in effect a repeat performance from 1996 and 2005,under the ever-polished direction of Roberta Gasbarre (Artistic Director), Elizabeth Anne Fulford (Music Director), and Colin K. Bills (Production Manager.)

What do you get for the price of a ticket? A multi-ethnic cast gorgeously arrayed–to say “dressed” would be inadequate–in authentic and eye-ctching native dress. There are too many people to credit with what is worn onstage as the clothes, headdresses, etc., are, in addition to the music and dance, a large part of the enjoyment. The cast also provides interaction with the audience and conducts sing and dance-alongs in the aisles.

In a show with 44 musical numbers, there are some standouts. There is the opening number, the “Brurelat”or “Bridal Song” by Edvard Grieg, Norway’s most celebrated composer, in an arrangement for a brass quintet.  To the interest the children in the audience, there are the Solstice Teens and the Northern Lights Band performing a circle dance from Finland, and children’s songs and dances. There is an inventive version of “Silent Night” beautifully sung by two solo voices, joined by a chorus singing the verses in three Nordic languages and, then to conclude it, an audience sing-along in English.

Some of the promised spectacle occurs before and after intermission. There is a figure of Louhi, witch of the Northland, who steals the sun and the moon, leaving the world in darkness. Represented by special effects and at a size several times that of human, Louhi makes her way down the aisle with gasps of awe and admiration from the audience.

Cast members. Photo courtesy of The Washington Revels.

The second act produces a different form of showstopper in the form of Tom Lovli, who reprises from earlier Revels the Norwegian hallingdans (halling dance), as much a spectacular athletic feat as dance. His expertise clearly preceded him. Tension and hopes mounted as he danced past a young woman holding a hat aloft with a cane ten feet from the floor.  Could any human touch a hat from such a height? Lovli could and did…bringing down the house, hat and audience.

I rate the show five stars for its entertainment, artistry, and its ability to share traditions.

Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes, including one intermission.

The Christmas Revels’ A Nordic Celebration of the Winter Solstice in Music, Dance, and Drama plays through this Sunday, December 18, 2016, at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium – 730 21st Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call 1-800-595-4849, or purchase them online.

REMAINING PERFORMANCES:
Friday, December 16th at 7:30 PM (Family Friday).
Saturday, December 17th at 2:00 PM & 7:30 PM.
Sunday, December 18th at 1:00 PM & 5:00 PM.

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Cast members. Photo courtesy of The Washington Revels.

Congratulations to the incredible Artistic Staff for all their amazing creative contributions to this mega-holiday production.

Artistic Director/Stage Director: Roberta Gasbarre.
Music Director: Elizabeth Anne Fulford.
Children’s Stage Director: Jenni Voorhees.
Children’s Music Director: H. Katherine Toton
Associate Director: Sam Game.
Assistant Director: Eva Louise Martin.
2nd Assistant Director: Daniel G. Mori.
Assistant Music Directors: Terrance Johns and William Wurzel.
Set and Lighting Designer: Colin K. Bills.
Costume Designer: Rosemary Pardee.
Associate Costume Designer: Rachael Feola.
Children’s Costume Designer: Cecily Pilzer.
Props and Puppet Designer: Alex Vernon.
Make-up Designers: Linda Smith Nissen and Jenni Voorhees.
Brass Arrangements: Elizabeth Anne Fulford.
Nordic Dance Consultants: Linda Brooks and Ross Schipper.
Lord of the Dance Consultant: James Voorhees.
Abbots Bromley Dance Consultant: David Roodman.

And thank you to all the performers:

Merja Soria, ancient songs
of Finland with kantele
Tom Løvli, traditional dance from Norway
Kalevala Ensemble
Matthew M. Nielson
William Linder
Sarah Olmsted Thomas
Zoe Alexandratos
Susan Hall Lewis
Alden Michels
Grace VanderVeer
Sasha Vesensky
Northern Lights Band
Andrea Hoag, fiddle
lydia ievins, nyckelharpa, 5-string fiddle
Loretta Kelley, fiddle, hardingfele
Charlie Pilzer, string bass, pipe organ
Nordic Brass
Robert Birch, director, trumpet
Bryan Bourne, bass trombone
Jeff Gaylord, trombone
Andrew Houde, French horn
Fred Marcellus, trumpet
Don Spinelli, percussion
Yule Singers
Zoe Alexandratos
Amy Appleton
Jeff Ashford*
Caroline Birasa
Jane Bloodworth+
Bethany Bray
Sharon Clark-Napolitano
Will Craig
Gwendolyn Cummings
John Daken
Abbie Desrosiers
Jan Elicker+
Eleanore Fox
Elizabeth Fulford
Richard Glassco
Sarah Glassco
Craig Haimson
Michael Haycock
Matthew Jackson
Terrance Johns
Kimberly Keravuori
Greg LaNave
Liza Lester
Susan Hall Lewis
Greg Lewis
Samantha Lint
David Meredith
Alden Michels
Andrew Moore
Lea Mulder
Peter Noone
Jackie Owen
Maria Posey
Greg Scholtz
Alexa Malanos Silverman
Guenevere Spilsbury*
Elizabeth Spilsbury*
Paula Thomas
Libby Tipson
Grace VanderVeer
Stewart Wesley
Terry Winslow
Will Wurzel
Christina Zola Peck
Cutting Edge Sword
Lynn Baumeister
David Casserly
Ted Hodapp
Laura Robertson
David Roodman
Tom Spilsbury
Jerry Stein
Scandia DC Dancers
Linda Brooks, director
Ross Schipper, director
David Auty
Sheri Auty
Lynn Baumeister
Carol Carnahan
Ted Hodapp
Daniel Kahn
Cathie Springer
Sonia White
Solstice Teens
Sylvie Ashford
Sarah Brodnax
Ransom Cain
Gabrielle Cole
Suzanne Cole
Elspeth Dorr
Abby Ehrenstein
Katie Jarvis
Patrick Kearney
Harald Lundberg
Darrow Sherman
Elena Stoddard
Tomtenisse Children
Fiona Alexandra Bondarev
Eleanor Daken
Alexandra Davis
Lila Hutchins
Sasha Karpova
Julia Sigrist Klam
Zanna Paraskevas
Raina Patterson
Codruț T. Pintea White
Isa Riva-Clement
Ava Marian Stebbins
Hayden Swetlow
Malin Thomas
Anya Vedantambe
Sasha Vesensky
Natalia Vilela
Nasir Yankey

RATING: