REVIEW: You’ve Got Mail! Avon Players’ ‘Forever Christmas: A Virtual Celebration’ is the Musical Christmas Card We All Need this Season

When I sat in the audience on March 6, 2020, for the opening night of the Avon Players’ production of Lend Me a Tenor, I, and I daresay those around me had any clue that this would be the last time we saw live theatre for the remainder of the year. Suddenly, ‘intermission’ took on a whole new meaning as the days stretched into weeks and months.

Now, we find ourselves deep into December and in desperate need of holiday cheer. Avon Players chooses to close out their 2020 season with Forever Christmas: A Virtual Celebration, available online at AvonPlayers.org from now, through the end of December.

The Alumni Quintet of ‘Forever Christmas’ from left to right: Jill Sloan, Dan Romzek, Tracy Murray, John (JD) Deierlein, and Jennifer Combs.
Photo credit: Avon Players Theatre Facebook Page

This is the 12th time Avon Players have brought the variety-style show Forever Christmas to life. Created and directed by John (JD) Deierlein, this year’s production looks a bit different than year’s past, but it still exudes the same warmth, charm, and hope as its predecessors. The show is largely comprised of two talented quintet groups: alumni of season’s past featuring the vocal talents of Jennifer Combs, John (JD) Deierlein, Tracy Murray, Dan Romzek, and Jill Sloan. The other, equally talented quintet will look and sound familiar to those who attended last year’s show as Sherri Such-Angelotti, Matt Cason, Clay Hargrave, Kirsten Renas, and Lori Smith are back to deliver another spirited round of Christmas cheer.

‘Forever Christmas’ Quintet performing live in the 2019 show. From left to right: Sherri Such-Angelotti, Clay Hargrave, Kirsten Renas, Matt Cason, and Lori Smith.
Photo Credit: Bryan Clifford.

The alumni quintet kicks off the show with the energetic song, “Come On It’s Christmas.” This David T. Clydesdale anthem is a delightful blend of new lyrics mixed with familiar carols like “Deck the Halls” and it really helps set the tone for the rest of the show. It also provides a smooth transition to the next Clydesdale tune “Swingin’ to the Sounds of the Season” sung by the 2019 quintet. I was happy to see one of my favorite tongue-twisting tunes “Jing-A-Ling,” sung a Capella by Kirsten, Lori, and Sherri was included once again in the line-up. The song has an infectious beat that just makes you smile. There were also poignant moments that allowed for reflection. Sheila Lyle delivered a reflective narration of the children’s book “A Wish to be a Christmas Tree” by Michigan couple Colleen and Michael Monroe. This charming story of a pine tree desperate to be chosen by a family serves as a reminder that we all want to be seen and valued. That we all have something to contribute, even if we don’t always see it ourselves. Another point during the show that felt like I was being wrapped in a comforting hug (remember those?) was when Jennifer Combs sang the classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Combs does an extraordinary job poetically expressing the longing to be with loved ones so many of us are feeling right now. While I enjoyed all the performances, I was a little saddened that the hilarious comedy sketches I’ve come to love weren’t included this year. But, I have to say the song “Text Me Merry Christmas” definitely put a big smile on my face. The duet performed by Brian Leduc and Ashley Rozanski is a spot-on take of the way we communicate in this age of social distancing: “This holiday you’ll be far away and I’ll be all alone. So please remember this December to fully charge your phone.”

As in years past, Forever Christmas: A Virtual Celebration, gives us a gift. One that affords us the opportunity to slow down, focus on what matters, and most importantly reminds us that we’re going to be OK. As the lyrics to “Thankful” sung by Dan Romzek so eloquently states: “It’s up to use to be the change. And even though we can all still do more, there’s so much to be thankful for.”

The show runs a little over an hour. In addition to the performances, viewers are given a behind-the-scenes look at what to expect for the 2021-2022 season and an opportunity to consider making a donation to help keep live theatre on the stage at Avon Players Theatre for years to come.

Visit AvonPlayers.org to watch via Facebook or YouTube through the end of December.


 

About Sarah Hovis

Word manipulator, arts appreciator, sports spectator, and world traveler, Sarah charts her own course as the owner of saliho creative. She uses her creative mind and engaging dialogue to fearlessly bring the written word to life in print and online… all while keeping a watchful eye out for the next literary adventure. You can reach her at [email protected].

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