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Christmas Cheer Onstage

by Sandra Hosking
| December 10, 2010 8:00 PM

Those four singing sisters-Kaye, Peggy, Cheryl, and Donna - have returned to Lake City Playhouse to dole out a dose of Christmas cheer in the musical review, "A Taffeta Christmas."

This parody of 1950s TV variety shows contains a mix of holiday favorites and classics like "Sincerely," "Jambalaya" and "Mr. Santa," set to the tune of "Mr. Sandman." Its presentation style stays true to the Playhouse's production of "The Taffetas," last season's finale, with bright colors, upbeat music, retro slang, and light humor.

In the current production, Liberty Harris, Kate Johnson, Gianinna Damiano and Micah Hanson embody the Taffetas, and their voices complement each other well. Each performer had a strong rapport with the audience.

Harris, who was a standout in the Spokane Civic Theatre's production of "The Spitfire Grill" last season, leads the Taffetas as the older sister, Kaye. During a medley of Christmas songs, her performance of "Ave, Ave Maria" was very sweet.

Hanson's Donna was the most distinct, and she was appropriately coquettish. Her "We hope you like it" before many of the songs was accompanied by flirty shoulder action that elicited laughter from the audience. But it was her voice that charmed; her rendition of "Dream Lover" was particularly strong.

Johnson, with "I'll Follow the Boys," and Damiano, who sang "Two Front Teeth," also had their moments in the spotlight.

The choreography, by Ali Waid, featured fluid movements and complex formations that, at times, poked fun at the cutesy nature of the show; although some of the positions seemed a little unnatural.

While the four songbirds sashayed downstage, the two-man orchestra featuring music director David Brewster on the piano and bassist Riley Weiler, was housed at the back of the stage in what appeared to be snow globe - complete with falling snow! The ginchy construct was cleverly devised by the theater's executive artistic director, George Green.

"A Taffeta Christmas" marks Andy Renfrew's directorial debut, and he, Brewster, and Waid did a swell job keeping the action moving as the four singers shifted from song to song fairly fluidly.

While the show is short on plot, it does have innocent humor as well as some innuendo. Renfrew could've made more of those moments.

As with the Playhouse's first "Taffetas" last spring, the Christmas musical also involves the audience. During a particularly harmonious performance of "Side By Side," the sisters drafted an audience member to attempt to dance and sing part of the chorus, an amusing bit.

This show needs more of that. Its writer, Rick Lewis, could've inspired more sing-along involvement from the viewers had he not fused together so many of the holiday tunes in quick - paced medleys. "Jingle Bells" flew by before one could chime "bobtails ring."

Holiday music lovers shouldn't be disappointed, though, as the show includes about 25 such songs, from "Silver Bells" to "Jingle Bell Rock" to "Santa Baby."

A Taffeta Christmas plays through December 19. We hope you like it.

Sandra Hosking, a Spokane-Coeur d'Alene area college instructor and freelance journalist, is a longtime member of the theater community and playwright whose works have been performed across the U.S. and internationally.

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