Good original musicals tend to be one based on the familiar, that sing out with universal values. Now through December 31 on the stage of Encore Dinner Theatre, Erik Przytulski's A Song for Christmas is enjoying a lovingly directed production wrapped up in true community spirit.
It's about a young boy Anthony (Preston Martin, Dakota Denton, followed by adult Garrett Chandler) who learns to play the piano under the tutelage of his Grandma (Karen Mangano), once a professional singer. He follows his dream and goes to New York, entering into the competitive music arena and struggles consistently to find his real artistic self amidst the brouhaha of flash-in-the-pan success/ instant stardom. Along the way he meets Julie (Katelyn Hall) a nurse and nice hometown girl with her eye on settling down into a comfortable marriage. Grandma would rather see him skip the love interest and pursue the career, but that pursuit is laden with unwilling compromises that are enough to turn off any true artist.
Przytulski has written a decent book with even storytelling and some very special music. On the whole, the show has a lot of potential. Its nod to family values as well as to following your dream make it appealing to young as well as old. Director Tony Reverditto, choreographer Jennifer Nicole and musical director Alan Kelly-Crawley get the most from their tightly knit cast. I was a little disappointed in the quality of some of the singing, but understand that several of the ensemble have been down with colds and the flu, so I laud their intent to "go on with the show!" Standouts acting-wise are, besides Hall and Mangano, Chris Kato as agent Ken, Hallie Mayer as Marlena, who does a terrif job with "No One Should Be Alone Christmas Day", Angeline Mirenda as the bitchy Tina and Trinity Woerz as Kaylee K, a takeoff on any pop overnight success who lacks real talent. "Winter" is an awful song made into a hit by Kaylee K. It's a typcial example of what happens to songwriters who compromise integrity for fame and money. Fun stuff and a big plus for Przytulski, who knows how to write music! I also enjoyed "Boy Band Christmas" and especially Dakota Denton, who plays teen Anthony too. Praise to all in the large 19 member cast for their enthusiasm and cheerful endeavor to pull it all off entertainingly. Set design by Andrew Otero works nicely especially the lit tree in front of the snowy country exterior, such a pretty scene that greets you as you enter the theatre.
Encore Dinner Theatre's gourmet food is indeed outstanding and the theatre looks beautiful dressed up in Christmas decorations. A Song for Christmas is an endearing evening, an original family musical that puts the emphasis on the Christmas messages of determination, fidelity, love and most of all community solidarity.