On Theater: Vanguard University’s charming ‘A Not So Silent Night’ is an early Christmas present

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Christmas is coming early this year, at least to Costa Mesa’s Vanguard University, where the holiday variety show “A Not So Silent Night” is making its sparkling world premiere.

Conceived, directed and choreographed by Broadway veteran Nikki Snelson, “A Not So Silent Night” is a joyous amalgamation of yuletide treasures, from the sacred to the silly, with several stops in between.

Among these are a clever rap battle between Jesus (Anthony Klinner) and Santa Claus (Robert Ball) and a less-effective “Newlywed Game” sendup involving two couples from the audience.


Above all, it’s a celebration in song and dance by an ensemble of 18 Vanguard student performers who mesh delightfully into a potpourri of holiday entertainment. Snelson’s bullet-paced choreography offers a vibrant exclamation point — particularly the swift tapping feet of tiny dancer Noelle Roth.

The concept is a 1970s-style variety show. A young woman leaves her home and a loving family to become an Army nurse, finds love with a soldier and brings him home to meet her parents — and in between are myriad comedic and musical segments, some of which are strikingly inventive.

Among the best of these is an audition for Santa’s reindeer set to the opening music of “A Chorus Line,” in which the antlered dancers vie for Santa’s favor. For fans of that 1975 hit show, it’ll be especially appealing.

Even the Grinch gets into the action as a greened-up Ball commands the stage to proclaim “I Hate Christmas.” He also appears in normal attire to render a moving “White Christmas” solo, while Grace Golden goes full Mariah Carey in a nicely rendered “All I Want for Christmas is You.”

Others in the Vanguard ensemble are Elizabeth Allen, Sophia Ayrouth, Vanessa Burch, DJ Fields, Charlton Hughes, Elizabeth Iniguez, Cornelius Lindsay, Joshua Menard, Gwendolyn Olson, Morgan Powers, Alyssa Quast, Sophia Roth, Karli Strate and Isaac Yescas.

They’re all involved in an ambitious rendering of “The 12 Days of Christmas,” with Strate and Lindsay doing the heavy lifting in a jolly show stopper of a number.

Snelson, who comes to Vanguard with a ton of professional credits, has done a remarkable job in the creation and execution of this brimming holiday package. “A Not So Silent Night” is a welcome addition to the Christmas season.


What: “A Not So Silent Night”

Where: Vanguard University, 55 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa (enter from Newport Boulevard)

When: Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 2 and 7:30 through Dec. 8

Cost: $15 to $19

Information: (714) 668-6145;

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