Monday, December 3, 2012

Quality Hill "Christmas in Song" review by BobEvans

Mature Melodies and Meditations.
Rating: 4

Christmas in Song
Quality Hill Playhouse

Christmas in Song at the Quality Hill Playhouse gives audiences a pleasing, but mature holiday offering with only a hint of traditional Christmas music and a nod to lesser know and unfamiliar pieces. While aimed at older audiences, the musical selections all entertain and feature fabulous vocals and the harmonic melodies from piano virtuoso, J. Kent Barnhart.

Barnhart knows his audiences and writes his shows to provide something for everyone. Audiences can count on a few standards like "White Christmas," "O Holy Night" and "Silent Night." What would a Christmas show be without those? And, Barnhart's classical-ragtime piano solo of "Jingle Bells" needs to be a continued staple, annually. If just those repeat regularly, audiences will continue to enjoy the performances.

Still, along with those, Barnhart selects lesser known and unknown pieces to educate and grow his audience's knowledge of his holiday show. This year, the show definitely focuses on a somber theme with songs of hope ("Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"), of anticipation ("I'll Be Home for Christmas"), of tradition ("O Tannenbaum" & "O Little Town of Bethlehem" – sung to a newer, unfamiliar arrangement), and of peace ("Go Tell It on the Mountain").

But without the merriment of the Christmas spirit and the child within each audience member, more could be added to leave patrons with bigger smiles on their faces. Yes, it's a show for adults, but a short medley of standard carols would give a nice touch as well as some farcical songs ("Rudolph," "Frosty," "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer," "Up On the Housetop," etc). Such small, yet simple melodies drive home the Christmas theme of family, home, memories, and joy. This year's show did not include any of the lighter songs.

Suffice it to say one never leaves Quality Hill without a sense of a great evening. And, Barnhart does a marvelous job of leaving the audience wanting even more. That's the trick to keep 'em coming back. And for that, the theatre deserves the patronage it continues to build.

This year's show relies on a simple mix of piano, a gifted pianist, and a cast of beautifully skilled vocalists who can perform with style and grace to any of the music Barnhart sends their way. This year's assembled cast includes Sarah LaBarr, Kathryn Long, Tim Noland, and Barnhart. Finding a more talented cast is beyond belief. All deliver crisp, clear, vocals. And the mood for each song depends a lot on their performance, expression, phrasing, as much as it does on pitch. All deliver fabulous solos and harmonies.

The 2012 Christmas in Song provides a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of the season. The show is very entertaining and the venue is great, with no bad seat in the auditorium. If you are looking for a family show that parents, grandparents, and children will enjoy, this is probably not the best choice for children. For adults, bring 'em on. It's well worth  the admission.

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