Front Row Reviewers

Dec 3, 2023 | Reviews

Christmas in Connecticut at the Pioneer Theatre Company is a Gift

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers

Review By Kari Vest England, Front Row Reviewers

From the first line of the first stanza of the first musical number I recognized Christmas in Connecticut at the Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake City is a Gift.  The remarkably talented ensemble cast (many of whom have Broadway in their bios), wraps their performance with heartwarming holiday happenings on a New England farm – but there’s a twist.

Famed Smart Housekeeping columnist Liz Lane, played by Alyse Alan Louis, serves up a picturesque view of her farm experience–or does she?  Her expressive words take her readers through idyllic everyday chores, baking, and relationships without revealing that Liz actually writes from a tiny apartment in  New York City and knows nothing about country life. When a beloved war hero (and fan of Liz) is invited by Liz’s publisher to Christmas on the nonexistent farm, Liz hatches a plan to keep her ruse alive.  Hilarious hijinx follow in Christmas in Connecticut, a delightful comic musical.

What are some of the gifts found under this glittery musical Christmas “tree”?

Louis’s heart-stirring vocals fill the theater as Liz struggles to balance meeting her basic needs with achieving her biggest dream. Tiffany Denise Hobbs‘ character, Gladys, expresses similar desires and ambitions. Hobbs’ presence on stage is palpable and invigorating. Her full voice, coy gestures, and tenacious nature shine. 

The amiable David Girolmo’s (Felix Bassenak) connection with the loveable Linda Mugleston (Norah) is flirty and fun. Gerry McIntyre (Alexander Beecham) emotes joy with his smile and physicality. Christian Magby’s (Jefferson Jones) heartfelt portrayal of the wounded soldier is endearing. Eric William Morris’s (Victor Beecham) sustaining energy is the perfect counterweight for Louis’s dynamic performance.

Lyricist Amanda Yesnowitz’s lyrics combined with composer Jason Howland’s melodies create effortless musical storytelling. The clever original lyrics pack a potent punch as they drive the plot forward. Musical Director/Conductor Helen Gregroy’s direction as well as the talented pit orchestra infuse the production with Big band sounds, enthusiastic show tunes, and energetic show stoppers. 

Some of the standout musical numbers include “Chemistry”, “Don’t Break the Ornament” and “Fact Checker”. “Don’t Break the Ornament” showcases Choreographer Karen Azenberg’s dizzying relay of ornaments and wreaths juggled between the actors.  Kudos to them for sure hands and excellent reflexes. Note: No ornaments are harmed in this production. 

Director Shelley Butler brings her Broadway experience to our salty shores with Christmas in Connecticut. Her dedication to the film and the time period is evident in every scene.  Scenic & Costume Design by Lex Liang transports us back to 1944 via fabric, high waisted pants, military uniforms. Liang’s attention to detail keeps us suspended in time. Lighting Designer Robert Aguilar effectively sets the mood from early morning sunrises to blackouts during winter storms. Candlelight and fading night show the passage of time. Sound Designer Aaron Hubbard swings us into the mood and music of the time period and I found myself wanting to get up and dance. (But I didn’t.) The glorious hair designs and sassy authentic makeup from Hair & Makeup Designer Cynthia Johnson give credibility to each scene as she perfects the Victory Roll, a silky smooth high front style made popular in the 1940’s. 

With a book by Emmy Award winner Patrick Pacheco and celebrated entertainment journalist Erik Forrest Jackson, Salt Lake City is favored to stage this new musical adaptation of the classic 1945 Warner Brothers film. The script presents subtle insights into the plight of marginalized individuals and brings awareness to our current condition. I was thoroughly entertained, but more than that, Christmas in Connecticut gave me much to consider and ponder. Itsfun, vibrant story captivated me. But as I drove home, my thoughts turned to the small nuances that spoke to me. There is a depth to this musical that is the essence of the season: Love, Hope, Forgiveness, Peace. 

Christmas in Connecticut is a family friendly whimsical winter exercise in honesty. Each character navigates what it means to be fully expressed, achieve dreams, and realize love while living authentically. The gift is this: A  fun reminder for self reflection. We all need a little Christmas in Connecticut in our stockings this season.

Pioneer Theatre Company presents Christmas in Connecticut, Book by Patrick Pacheco and Eric Forrest Jackson, Music by Jason Howland, Lyrics by Amanda Yesnowitz, based on the Warner Brothers film. 
Pioneer Theatre Company, Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre, 300 South 1400 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84112
December 1-16, 2023, Monday – Thursday, 7:00 PM, Friday and Saturday, 7:30 PM, Saturday, 2:00 PM
Tickets: $55 – $79 in advance; $5 more when purchased on day of show.
Students K – 12 or ages 5-18 are half-price Monday – Thursday
Contact: 801-581-6961, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM, Monday – Friday
Pioneer Theatre Company Facebook Page 
Christmas in Connecticut promo video

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