Review: ‘A Rockabilly Christmas’ at Riverside Center for the Performing Arts

This holiday season, Riverside Center for the Performing Arts presents A Rockabilly Christmas, co-created by Todd Meredith, Patrick A’Hearn and Jeremy Renner. For this production, Riverside returns select soloists alongside Todd Meredith and his band the Rave-Ons. Together, the group throws a festive party onstage by performing a collection of classic holiday songs with a rockabilly twist. They also share stories, jokes, and general holiday cheer!

L-R: Jacob Callis, Angela Donadio, Ryan Jagru, Temperance Barbour, Sheri Hayden, Todd Meredith, Mike Lucchetti, KadeJah Oné, Ian Lane, Mitchell Austin and Jeremy Renner in A Rockabilly Christmas. Photo courtesy of Riverside Center for the Performing Arts.
L-R: Jacob Callis, Angela Donadio, Ryan Jagru, Temperance Barbour, Sheri Hayden, Todd Meredith, Mike Lucchetti, Kadejah Oné, Ian Lane, Mitchell Austin and Jeremy Renner in A Rockabilly Christmas. Photo courtesy of Riverside Center for the Performing Arts.

Todd Meredith, best known at Riverside for his acclaimed performance as Buddy Holly in Buddy, performs with his band The Rave-Ons in a whimsical set designed to look like town center plaza, designed by Kendall Khan. Emcee Kadejah Oné warmly welcomes the audience before introducing Ian Lane. Ian’s character from Buddy, Big Bopper, was an audience favorite, and he returns in this character for the number “Chantilly Lane.” His commanding presence is a hit with the audience, and he knows it–he hilariously refuses to break character when Kadejah engages him. Kadejah has some numbers of her own, most notably “O Holy Night,” where she showcased her powerful vocal range. Sheri Hayden reprises her role as Patsy Cline from Always…Patsy, and brings country flair to the show with her somber rendition of “Christmas Without You.”

The Rave-Ons remain the focal point throughout the evening, rousing the crowd with amped-up versions of favorite holiday tunes such as “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Run, Run Rudolph.” Angela Donadio plays the keyboards, Mike Lucchetti is on the drums, and Jeremy Renner (who also arranged the songs for this production) and Todd Meredith are on guitar. Jacob Callis thrills the crowd with his upright bass, on which he hams it up with several playful tricks (ever see someone play an upright bass behind their own back?) The band also plays several original Buddy Holly songs, including “Peggy Sue” and “That’ll Be the Day That I Die.” Their lively energy easily transfers to the audience, with some even getting up to dance in the aisles (which is encouraged!)

Other guest performers include Ryan Jagru, who does a great job with Elvis’ “Blue Christmas”…that is, until Ian walks onstage decked out in an elaborate Elvis costume. What follows is something I can only describe as an “Elvis-off,” and yes, it’s as fun as it sounds! Young Mitchell Austin and Temperance Barbour join the ensemble for several numbers, and do a choreographed dance in “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” They also engage in cute, playful banter (should “Die Hard be considered a “Christmas movie?”) that gets the audience laughing. Lovers of concerts and live music will particularly enjoy this show–the vocals are professional and pristine. The artists also bring a lot of personality and charm to the stage, and harmonize together beautifully. And yes, Santa does make an appearance!

Riverside Center for the Performing Arts’ A Rockabilly Christmas is a truly unique holiday experience that you won’t find anywhere else. If live music is your thing, then you can’t miss it!

Running Time: Approximately two and a half hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

A Rockabilly Christmas plays through December 30, 2018, at Riverside Center for the Performing Arts– 95 Riverside Parkway, Fredericksburg, VA. For tickets, call (540) 370-4300 or go online.