Review: ‘Silver Bells’ at The Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre

For people seeking holiday entertainment in the Frederick area who might seek an alternative to A Christmas Carol, or The Nutcracker, or It’s a Wonderful Life, or one of the endless cavalcade of sappy Hallmark Channel Christmas movies, The Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre offers a smorgasbord, not only at the buffet table but on stage.

Patrick Ford, Joseph Waeyaert (Background – Melissa Ann Martin and Sarah Melinda). Photo courtesy of Way Off Broadway.

Silver Bells is a grab-bag revue of miscellaneous, mostly secular, Christmas season songs with many of the numbers set in vaudevillian skits. It is likely an audience attending such a presentation seeks light, non-taxing entertainment, without imposing expectations for superb performances or top-notch production values. That is what Silver Bells delivers.

The 10-person ensemble’s group numbers, from the opening “Silver Bells” to the concluding “Let’s Have a Christmas Celebration,” are lively and generally well-sung.

The movement is fairly simple but usually energetic.

Jordan B. Stockdale performs one of the musical bright spots of the show, a tender, straightforward, low-key version of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”  Jessica Billones takes a similarly effective approach to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

Another successful number is a rendering of “I’m Getting Nothing for Christmas” by fifth-grader Patrick Ford. Ford, who plays a smart, all-too-knowing kid in several skits, is developing some nice acting and singing chops.

The show’s comic sketches include a Beverly Hillbillies-like sequence lacking only “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” to complete the silliness. The first major post-intermission sequence features a trio of female elves whose heads and hands appear through holes in a curtain as the performers manipulate shimmering puppet bodies and dancing puppet feet while they sing three numbers in high-pitched character voices.  

Joseph Waeyaert. Photo courtesy of Way Off Broadway.
Joseph Waeyaert. Photo courtesy of Way Off Broadway.

The show devotes considerable time and attention to spoofing the holiday season buying mania, all too appropriate for a run that began the day after Black Friday. In this vein, it was an excellent choice to include the truest satirical Christmas song of all, Tom Lerher’s “Christmas Carol.”  

The set, designed by Stockdale and Bill Kiska, is a potpourri of seasonal symbols such as Santa, Nutcracker dolls, a wreath, decorated trees, candy cane poles, a fireplace hearth, and poinsettias. Kiska’s costume designs are even more eclectic, including red hooded choir robes, fur coats, plaid vests, ugly Christmas sweaters, snarky t-shirts, top hats, an intentionally ghastly orange suit, suspenders, Santa accessories, and a baggy reindeer outfit.  

The theater’s low-ceilinged space does not permit many lighting options; illumination is limited to several instruments over the stage. Accompaniment is provided by a recorded synthesizer score, which is kept in good balance with the unamplified singers.

Running Time: Two hours, including one intermission, preceded by a two-hour dinner period.

Silver Bells plays through December 22, 2018, at The Way Off Broadway Dinner Theater – 5 Willowdale Drive, #A1 in Frederick MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 662-6600, or purchase them online.