Theatre Review: Christmas on the Air – a kinder, gentler holiday show

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Sweet things were definitely on the menu this last weekend.  While Annie played in the ‘burbs, a little closer to home Christmas on the Air opened at Pacific Theatre.  A definite throwback to another era, this Midnight Theatre Collective production offers up a charming story for those looking for something a little kinder and gentler this holiday season.

The cast from local radio station CKOS are on the air Christmas Eve with their annual holiday show.  As the show progresses, with its combination of holiday stories and traditional Christmas songs, little by little we learn about their lives and some of the secrets they hide.  As members of the “live studio audience” we also played a role providing the required applause and “oohs and ahhs” after each segment.

The ensemble cast (Damon Calderwood, Benjamin Elliott, Diana Kaarina, Lalainia Lingbjerg and Seana-Lee Wood) all do a good job in helping to capture the time period.  Quaint holiday stories are sandwiched between some great harmonies as the cast do a really wonderful job with the music.

Christmas on the Air
The cast of the Midnight Theatre Collective production of Christmas on the Air.  Photo by

Amongst the nostalgia is a layered tale of forgiveness and love which definitely plays second fiddle to the holiday sentiment.  While the big revelation of the evening would barely register in 2010, back in 1949 it would probably have been a pretty big deal.  Unfortunately I felt little tension after the secret is revealed and the radio broadcast continues as if nothing is awry; granted some of the reactions may have been difficult to see given the awkward Pacific Theatre space, but I felt little of a dramatic arc.

Elliott gets to show off some of his fine physical comedy talent here but Director Shel Piercy hides most of it behind a table on one side of the stage.  I watched as those closest to the action were having a wonderful time with his antics but the majority of it was lost from our vantage point.

Where this cast really shines is in the music.  Musical Director Seana-Lee Wood, who also plays double-duty as the radio show’s pianist Sylvia, squeezes every bit of musical talent from the group.

As the show came to its sweet conclusion with everything forgiven and young love realized, I noticed the elderly woman beside me drying her eyes.  As I saw her obviously touched by what she had just seen I couldn’t help but think that my Mom would have also loved Christmas on the Air.   If you’re looking for a night out with your aunt, grandmother or parents who might have grown up in the forties or fifties, this show will make a perfect holiday treat.

3 out of 5 Stars Christmas on the Air

By Lucia Frangione.  Directed by Shel Piercy.  Musical Direction by Seana-Lee Wood.  A Midnight Theatre Collective production.  On stage at the Pacific Theatre through January 1, 2011.

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