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Monday, December 12, 2011

Carson Waldron, seated left, with girls Addison Marchese, Kearney Capuano, Kaitlyn Vitelli, and adults Carolina Read and Michael McDermott in Ivoryton Playhouse's original "Home for the Holidays." Photo by Anne Hudson.

Whimsical, spontaneous ‘Home For The Holidays’ at Ivoryton

by Kory Loucks

IVORYTON — “Home For The Holidays” is a sweet new holiday production that hopefully will become an annual tradition at the Ivoryton Playhouse.

Conceived and directed by Ivoryton Artistic Director Jacqueline Hubbard, it’s a holiday gift to the community and the special, magical theater.

The premise is that they are rehearsing the play “A Christmas Carol” on Christmas Eve when the weather outside turns into a blizzard and the old tree in front of the playhouse crashes into the road, blocking traffic and taking out the power lines.

Sound familiar? The roads are impassible and other people traveling through are forced to come to the theater, which is equipped with a generator. Throughout the evening parents, friends, and children sing Christmas carols that fit seamlessly into the story, such as when the children sing the lullaby “Away in the Manger” to the little boy infant to help him sleep.

Liz Pester is sarcastic and amusing as Holly, whose birthday is on Christmas day. She playfully teases Joe, played by Brandon Clark, for having a crush on the actress Christina, played by Alanna Burke.

Clark is fine as the lovesick young man, and Burke hits just the right notes as the narcissistic actress singing “Santa Baby.”

Norm Rutty is really funny and touching as the grumpy old Norm, and sings a delightfully anti-Christmas song.

Music Director John Sebastian DeNicola plays John, who is frantic to reach his partner and sings one of my favorite songs of all time, Joni Mitchell’s “River.”

Jason Naylor plays the stagehand Steve and sings a touching duet with Erica LuBonta, the single, harried mother named Cat.

Gayle LaBrec plays the sweet Jennifer, with a beautiful voice, and sings a clever rendition of “The 12 Days of Christmas” about her loser ex-boyfriend.

“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a coffee mug he got at work for free,” she sings.

Addison Marchese is absolutely adorable as the little girl, Sammie, who wants a puppy for Christmas and just steals the show when she is on stage.

All the children give the show so much energy and life, including Kaitlyn Vitelli as Emily, Carson Waldron as Tucker, and Kearney Capuano as Cassie.

Beverly J. Taylor plays Helen whose car got stuck on the road while taking home her elderly and hard-of-hearing friend Jane (a fantastic Maggie McLone Jennings.)

Jennings is witty and sharp with her constant misunderstandings of what is being said.

When Helen says to Jane, “I’m going to see if the car starts,” Jane replies, “No dear, I don’t need anything from Wal-Mart.”

It’s also moving when Jane talks about her grandfather who was in World War I, and how he told her that on the front lines both sides stopped fighting on Christmas Eve and sang “Silent Night.” The cast then sang the hymn in English and German. Carolina Read is marvelous as the mom Sarah, dancing gracefully on toe shoes to “The Nutcracker.”

Michael McDermott has a glorious voice. He plays Sarah’s husband Rob, and is very funny and real when he blames Sarah for making them late. Celeste Cumming plays Celeste the cellist, who, along with the talented Gayle LaBrec on the violin and flute and DeNicola on piano, adds so much to this production.

The set by Jo Nazro, of “A Christmas Carol,” serves the plot well and I love the whimsical Christmas tree created out of garlands on a ladder.

Kudos to Hubbard for somehow pulling this off in just over a month. All the performers work smoothly together in this lovely and loving, spontaneous production, “Home For The Holidays,” through Dec. 18.

Three ½ Stars
Theater: Ivoryton Playhouse
Location: 103 Main Street, Ivoryton
Production: Conceived and directed by Jacqueline Hubbard. Music direction by John Sebastian DeNicola. Choreography by Meghan McDermott. Scenic design by Jo Nazro. Stage Manager Jim Clark. Lighting design by Doug Harry.
Running time: 2 hours plus one 15-minute intermission.
Show Times: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. through Dec. 18.
Tickets: $30 for adults, $28 for seniors, $20 for students, and $15 for children 12 and under. Call the box office at 860-767-7318 or visit their website at
Liz Pester ... Holly
Brandon Clark ... Joe
Jason Naylor ... Steve
Celeste Cummings ... Celeste
Erica LuBonte ... Cat
Norm Rutty ... Norm
John Sebastian DeNicola ... John
Alanna Burke ... Christina
Addison Marchese ... Sammie
Beverley J. Taylor ... Helen
Maggie McGlone Jennings ... Jane
Kaitlyn Vitelli ... Emily
Michael McDermott ... Rob
Carolina Read ... Sarah
Carson Waldron ... Tucker
Kearney Capuano ... Cassie
Will Schneider ... David

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