Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Twinkling lights on snow-covered Christmas trees fill the stage at Victoria Playhouse in Petrolia for their production of Starbright Christmas. This marks the 12th year for David Rogers’ and David Hogan’s Christmas concert celebration. They initiated their now-famous Christmas concert first at the Stratford Festival Theatre, then in Sarnia at the Imperial Theatre, and now in Petrolia. The two Davids have built a reputation for Starbright Christmas – beautiful snow covered sets on stage, glamourous glittering costumes, and amazing vocal talent.
This year is no exception. There must be about a dozen stunning costume changes. The women appear with beautiful gowns and sparkling jewellery. The men look dapper in tuxes with coordinated ties. And each cast member has a remarkable voice.
Janelle Murray’s performance of “Ave Maria” alone is worth the trip to Petrolia. Her full rich soprano in “O Come All Ye Faithful” is enough to bring tears to the toughest eyes. Callandra Dendias is the crowd pleaser with her rendition of “How Great Thou Art”. Alexis Gordon fills the theatre with her bell-like soprano in “I Wonder as I Wander”. Jennifer Walls with her stellar Judy Garland-like voice offers a heart-warming “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”.
Brian Belleth sings a breathtaking version of Josh Groban’s “Thankful”, sounding better than Groban. Michael Vanhevel perfectly croons the favourites, such as “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” and “White Christmas”, while Christopher Dunham’s rich voice is featured in “I Believe”. VPP’s exceptional fiddler, Jesse Grandmont, entertains with both his voice and his fiddle. Of special note is his violin solo “Silent Night”. Music director Mark Payne is at centre stage on the bedazzled white grand piano.
Lambton Youth Choir and St. Philip and Sacred Heart School Choirs back up the singers for several numbers. It’s a delight to see the children on stage.
While there are several special medleys – even one that features all the other holidays of the year – my favourite is the Joy medley. The Christmas carol “Joy to the World” morphs into the Three Dog Night version of “Joy to the World”, followed by “Ode to Joy”.
For anyone looking for some Christmas spirit, this is where you will find it.
If Starbright Christmas sells out, you might be able to get tickets for their next show, Christmas Jamboree, featuring Canada’s international singing star Stacey Kay, and her a cappella group Eh440. The VPP Christmas Jamboree is on stage December 12, 13, & 14.
Starbright Christmas continues at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia until December 3. Call the box office at 1-800-717-7694 or 519-882-1221 for tickets or visit www.thevpp.ca
Photo: The Starbright ensemble with Lambton Youth Choir in the background.
Conceived & written by David Rogers
Directed by David Hogan & David Rogers
Musical Direction & Arrangements by Mark Payne
Choreographed by David Hogan
Performed by Brian Belleth, Callandra Dendias, Christopher Dunham, Alexis Gordon, Jesse Grandmont, Janelle Murray, Mark Payne, Michael Vanhevel and Jennifer Walls.
Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia
November 24 to December 3, 2015
Reviewed by Mary Alderson