Playhouse Stage Co, successfully jumps into the holiday fray
Playhouse Stage Company has decked out Cohoes Music Hall with warmth, laughter and all the “feel good” you’ll need to get into the holiday spirit. “The Worst Best Christmas Pageant Ever” by is the best of what Playhouse Stage Company has become known for. The show mixes in a number of very talented seasoned Playhouse adult performers and matched them with a cast of a dozen or so equally talented area youth all under the age of 12.
“Pageant” is typical holiday fare. The play offers a little bit of laughter, lots of fun music, the six Herdman children a misunderstood less privileged family and of course a moral at the end about not judging people until you look beneath the surface. Adults take things at surface value, preconceived ideas: it is the kids of the show who get under your skin and look beyond just what their parents have intellectually fed them. We have the church organizing their annual Christmas pageant, the pageant is canceled due to miss information and then ultimately, and I do not believe this is giving up any great plot spoilers, the show does go on and everyone has a merry holiday.
Once again Owen Smith, producing artistic director, allows his staff to do what they do best: offer the youth of the area the experience and practice to be a part of a production that offers the same level of professionalism as the all adult productions the company has become so well known for. Chuck Kraus, managing director, takes the reins as director for this show and leads his cast through the humor, angst and love of the season, though as implausible as it appears, without ever stooping to schitck.
Ashley-Simone Kirchner, director of education and associate artistic director, beautifully maneuvers her cast through the choreography and musical staging. Kirchner also does double duty with equal aplomb as the production’s costume designer.
Scenic design by Ray Stokes and Upstate Scenic, lighting by Ryan Marsh and sound design by Live Sound Inc. will have you feel as if you are visiting inside a snow globe by the production’s end.
The adults are well represented by the very talented Playhouse vets, Molly Rose McGrath and Nick Martiniano as ‘Grace and Bob Bradley,’ the town’s optimistic couple who just know that Grace can jump in and direct the show. The couple have cornered the market on eternal optimism in face of adversary. McGrath’s strong voice and Martiniano’s heartfelt devotion and underplayed comic sense make a perfect marriage made in small town America.
Ellen Cribbs is ‘Helen Armstrong,’ the domineering coordinator forced to step aside from the pageant activities this year due to an accident. Reluctant to let go, and trying to control everything from her hospital bed, she of course comes around at the end. Cribbs, another Playhouse vet is funny and just a bit sad, it’s a perfect combination.
The Church Ladies: real life sisters Liz Bazinet and Gabi Bazinet Douglas and Selma Fabregas form a trio of, for lack of a better euphemism, the Greek chorus. The three ladies harmonies are a delight whenever they appear. The ensemble numbers will captivate. The cast as a whole is shear joy clearly relishing every moment they have on stage.
Without listing the entire juvenile cast members, all of whom should be mentioned, it would be remiss not to call out Jonah Wood the eldest brother of the misunderstood Herdman clan and Sophie Geis as the eldest Herdman sister. Wood has all the makings of coming into his own with a mature stage presence, confident dancing and strong vocal ability. Geis will enthrall you as she did this past summer in Secret Garden at Washington Park. Her stunning voice belies her youthfulness.
The Worst Best Christmas Pageant Ever book and lyrics by Jahnna Beecham and music by Malcolm Hillgartner has not given us another White Christmas or It’s A Wonderful Life, but it will offer a few hours to get you into the swing of the holiday season in fine fettle.
Christmas Pageant runs through December 23 at Cohoes Music Hall, 58 Remsen St., Cohoes. For more information or tickets, go to Playhouse Stage Company’s website or call 518-434-0776.