Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s production of A Broadway Holiday is a fun, sweet tribute to classic Christmas shows. With an original book and directed by Sally Boyett, and musical direction and arrangements by Howard Breitbart, it is a wonderful combination of music, singing, acting, and dancing, done in conjunction with A Christmas Carol.
The show is set just after World War II, in an old theater in Schenectady, NY. Veteran and radio star Jimmy (Rob Condas), who inherited the theater from his uncle, brings friends in from radio, Broadway, and movies to perform one last Christmas radio show from the theater. Along the way, relationships are tested and formed.
Rob Condas plays Jimmy with great emotion. Speaking of his fear that he wouldn’t get back home, his voice quietly trails off. Learning of trouble with the theater’s mortgage, the gang tries to cheer him up. As MC of the radio show, he is energetic and quick on his feet, flustered only once, after a personal setback. During a big surprise at the end, his voice is filled with gratitude and surprise.
Christine Asero plays radio personality Bonnie with a quick wit, always ready with a joke. Speaking of herself, she quips, “Always a pal, never a gal.” She sings the jazzy, upbeat songs with high energy and lots of movement. Her rendition of “O Holy Night” is beautifully tender and passionate.
Connor O’May brings an easy charm to fellow radio star Harry. He kicks off “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails” eagerly dancing across the stage. With Joan (Catherine Athenson), he sings “It’s a Lovely Day,” fun and flirty, sitting down with her. During the radio show, he does all the old-time commercials, getting great laughs.
John Pruessner plays Pops, who “came with the place,” beginning gruff but quickly warming up to the gang. He sings “I Won’t Dance” with the women with great comic timing, swaying to the beat but not dancing with them. In “The Only Thing I Want for Christmas” he is soft and tender. In “Mele Kalikimaka” he is light and breezy.
Grace Gentile gives a quiet strength to Ruby, a Broadway star who still cares for Jimmy. At their first meeting, they sing “Coming to See the Light” full of emotion and possibility. She also tap-dances several numbers with Lana (Sally Boyett). Later, she makes a surprising but reasonable decision about Jimmy, which leaves him briefly flustered.
Sally Boyett brings a charm and glamor to Lana, a movie star. She makes quips but is furious to find former co-star Eduardo (Lalo Medina) will be joining them. Boyett and Medina have the best scenes together, full of drama. In “Baby It’s Cold Outside” they touch and Boyett sits in Medina’s lap; once the song ends, she pushes him away. Medina sings “Blue Christmas” to her with deep feeling. In the radio show, they sing “It Had to Be You” with a surprising action in the instrumental middle. They are constantly touching and embracing.
Medina plays Eduardo with regrets on how he left Lana, full of feeling for her. He brings a tenderness to his songs, singing “Silent Night” in Spanish and filling “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” with powerful emotion.
Catherine Athenson plays Lana’s niece Joan with a youthful awkwardness, dropping papers and ordering the wrong things. Starstruck by Medina, she reaches out to touch him, asking for his autograph. Her “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” is incredibly powerful.
Scenic Designer Salydon Boyken uses A Christmas Carol’s set, but to different effect. A spiral staircase is on the left-hand side, with a covered entrance at the bottom, while on the right is a staircase with two landings. The backdrop is a screen on which Projections Designer Joshua McKerrow throws various images, including rows of seats at a theater, snowy scenes, and classic Christmas scenes. Crates are scattered throughout the stage at the start, while microphones are placed in the center in Act II.
Sally Boyett is also the Costume Designer, and with Wig and Makeup Designer Lucy Wakeland, creates outfits reflecting the period and that help distinguish the characters. At the start, Harry wears a green sweater and black pants, while Bonnie is in a green shirt and yellow pants. Jimmy wears a red sweater and khakis, as does Pops, adding a gray cap. Lana looks elegant in a red skirt, black jacket, and white shirt. Ruby is in a blue dress, and Eduardo looks dashing a gray suit. In Act II, the men wear tuxes, while Lana has on a red dress, Bonnie a dark green one, Joan a light blue dress with a white collar, and Ruby a dark blue dress. For the finale, the women wear red dresses with elbow-length white gloves.
Corey Goulden-Naitove helps reflect the changing mood with lighting effects. For intimate songs, blue light washes over the stage. For more jazzy, spirited tunes, the lights turn up. Inviting the audience to sing along during “White Christmas,” the house lights turn up.
Musical Director, Arranger, and Accompanist Howard Breitbart keeps the music going fast and often on the electronic keyboard from an offstage corner. He blends the music well with the performers’ singing, making a terrific sound. Audio Consultant Folger Ridout ensures both the performers and music are heard perfectly.
Sally Boyett does a wonderful job as Director. The performers work well together, whether in solos, duets, or groups. There are lots of gorgeous movements throughout the show, from tap dancing to spins and slow dances. Watching them juggle oversize Christmas balls and throw up tinsel during “We Need a Little Christmas” is beautiful. It’s the perfect show to accompany A Christmas Carol, sure to keep you in the holiday spirit. Don’t miss it!
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours, including a 15-minute intermission.