Dear sister Liz and I introduced ourselves to our table mates. My first question is always... “have you been to Candlelight before?” In three years of attending opening weekends we've sat with only one couple who were returning vets. A promising sign.
The couple was from Downingtown. That's a hike. Dinner theatres in their area had closed years ago and, being good shoppers, they knew the inherent value in this combo for $55.00 per.
Perusing the program, the gentleman leaned over to me. “Don't actors get bored being in the same show for 6 weeks?”
“OMG! Shirley you jest! Theatre people are not like you and me, my son. They love performing. They love being different. They love the bond of their compadres. It's a new audience every night; responding in as many ways to them as there are snowflake designs. Being on stage is a rush.
'A Very Candlelight Christmas' was NCT's first in-house show, written by two of the most gifted performing arts talents in the Delaware Valley, Chris Alberts and Sonny Leo.
Chris and Sonny come by their talents honestly. Chris's Dad was Al Alberts of The Four Aces. Sonny's Mom is the local living legend of dance, Anna Marie. Sonny appeared on Al Alberts' tv show as a teenybopper (way back in the day, as they say).
NCT took a great risk with this show. This is commendable. The project was outside the boundaries of their normal programming. The margin of error is slim. (think Rick Perry's numbers' plummet after his brain freeze).
But is there not a greater risk in the arts than to perform live? Players put themselves at risk each time they walk on stage. Will I sing a sour note, will I trip during a choreo routine, will I lose focus with my character, will I burp or stutter or sneeze or go up in lines?
Half way through the opening number I rolled my eyes, sighed and muttered, “two hours to go with this mediocrity?” Alan (Tim Moudy) was portraying an over the top Pat Sajak-type announcer with delusions of adequacy.
Then....the reveal. Devlin (Patrick O'Hara) strides in from the audience and pulls the plug. Now here's a guy with skeletons (literally) in his closet! I do suggest toning down his vitriol a tad for the holiday audience.
This is a play within a play. The even greater conceit was that the plot was a takeoff of Dickens' “Scrooge' with a very very Christmasy Candlelight version. Clever. And, with each scene, the imagination continued its upward path.
Alberts and Leo wrote an inventive piece “We Three Kings of Broadway” featuring 'King of Siam' (Andre Dion Wills), Don Quixote (Paul Goodman) and Tevye (Dave Snyder). The trios' signature Broadway tunes were interspersed with the Xmas anthem. Difficult to conjure, but it worked.
Peter Pan made an appearance...on land...and on roller skates... in the charming personage of Peter Briccotto, an ice skating medalist and coach in real life.
Bob Fosse (David McConney) had The Master's pelvic thrusts down in yet another inventive number, chained (as in Marley's chains) to two 'Fosse' girls.
Costume Child (Zoe McLane), age 9, exhibits stage presence and pulls off her running gag with aplomb. She is outfitted by amusing costumes by Linda Reilly and Carol Brindley.
I imagine this will become an NCT tradition. Aisle Say considers there was a bit too much “Auld Lang Syne” and, with all the hoopla around Cassie's ( Kaylan Wetzel Acon) show-stopping talent, there was no fitting production number befitting her prodigious versatility.
Thru December 23. NCTonstage.org 302.475.2313