THEATER REVIEW : Stuffed 'Holiday' Is Not Red-Letter


Happy holidays?

Not judging by "Holiday on Broadway," the Brea Civic Light Opera's attempt to usher in the season. This production at the Curtis Theatre, by director-choreographers John Vaughan and Douglas Austin, may be new, but original is hardly the term one could attach to this show.

Soulless is closer to the mark. Packing dozens and dozens of Broadway and--oddly, considering the title--non-Broadway tunes into two hours, Vaughan and Austin link them all by seasonal holidays. So, for instance, "She Loves Me" pops up in the Valentine's Day section, "Over There" in Memorial Day and "That Old Black Magic" in Halloween. You get the idea.

But like a very long parade, the sheer number of tunes and bits becomes numbing, and when the show's over, it's over. The feeling isn't one of a capper with Christmas cheer--even the white-bearded drop-in guest from the North Pole couldn't get the boy sitting on his lap to smile during Sunday's performance. It's more like a warm rum toddy gone cold from sitting out too long.

Beyond an editor, "Holiday" desperately needs a shaper and a vision. Too often, the 10 performers are asked to enter and exit one by one or in pairs, number after number, like a Disneyland act.

There is dancing (mostly by the overly balletic David S. Monge and Shira Weiss), but only in spurts. What's missing is a choreographed flow that suggests the year's seasonal flow.

What's too present is a musical flatness--not from the ensemble members, who sing nicely as a group--but from accompanists Austin (a dull piano) and Ken McGrath (clunky drums). This isn't support; it's a hindrance.

Only in rare moments does a theatrical spark appear. Almost all of them are provided by Lisa Dyson, whose stage chops visibly dominate this young group. She actually plays characters , such as the spunky waitress Cleo singing "Ooh! My Feet" from "The Most Happy Fella" (cleverly, for the Labor Day section). Dyson is also part of the small group that sings "Little Shop of Horrors" in the fluorescent dark, which is as theatrical as this show gets.

Linda Graves displays some comic moments as Chelsea Clinton (in "The Secret Service Makes Me Nervous"), but her costume is out of the 1890s, not the 1990s. Doug Hodge, the most charismatic of the men, provides a firm anchor but shares with most of his colleagues the problem of projecting a distinctive personality.

And what's a holiday without that?

* "Holiday on Broadway," Curtis Theatre, 1 Civic Center Drive, Brea. Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 2 p.m. $10.50 to $12.50. (714) 990-7722. Ends Sunday. Running time: 2 hours. A Brea Civic Light Opera production of a musical revue directed and choreographed by John Vaughan and Douglas Austin. With Jason R. Bailly, Gretchen E. Connelie, Christy Cook, Lisa Dyson, Sean Faulkner, Ron Graham, Linda Graves, Doug Hodge, David S. Monge and Shira Weiss. Set and costumes: The Company.

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