St. Clair College’s Music Theatre Performance Program brought a delightful blend of nostalgia and contemporary zest to the Chrysler Theatre these last two weekends with their “Holiday Special.” Directed by Katherine Kaszas and musically steered by Michael Karloff, the show was a vibrant homage to 1960s TV Christmas specials, including some fun moments behind the scenes.
An intriguing aspect of the production was its tasteful, yet unexpected, touch of sexuality and maturity. The costumes, revealing yet glamorous, added an element of the sexual liberation movement of the 1960s, while some of the content like the lyrics in “Sugar and Booze”, gave the show a touch of maturity. The performers showcased a level of confidence and charm reminiscent of the famed Radio City Music Hall Rockettes at one point. Their swinging legs and coordinated kick line were not just a display of impeccable timing and athleticism, but also an embodiment of the show’s subtle yet impactful nod to a more mature theme from a more distinctly innocent time.
A highlight in the show was “Silver Bells.” This classic was cleverly reimagined as a narrative about a nervous bride’s wedding day, transforming it from a simple Christmas carol into a story of love and anticipation. This innovative twist not only showcased the program’s creative prowess but also highlighted the vocal strengths of Claire Jones Fright, whose performance lent an air of authenticity and emotion to the piece.
The cast, comprising students from the classes of 2024 and 2025, demonstrated remarkable talent and versatility. Standout performances included Sahiba Arora’s charismatic “Man With The Bag,” Alex Wyant’s energetic “Jingle Bells,” and Jenna Fisch’s playful “Kissin’ By The Mistletoe.” The full company pieces, especially “In The Bleak Midwinter” and “This Christmastide (Jessye’s Carol),” showcased the collective vocal harmony and synchronization of the group.
The choreography, led by Christine DesJardins and Greg Carruthers, was a highlight, perfectly balancing the show’s retro theme with modern dance elements. The technical team, featuring Justin Yelle’s set design and Kirsten Watt’s lighting, created an immersive backdrop that enhanced the overall experience.
St. Clair College’s “Holiday Special,” while a festive highlight, underscores a recent trend at the college: a focus on seasonal variety shows to the exclusion of a broader theatrical repertoire. While these annual Christmas spectacles beautifully showcase the students’ talents in a holiday context, one can’t help but reminisce about the days when St. Clair ventured beyond the seasonal fare. Productions like “The Rocky Horror Show,” “The Pajama Game,” and “Heathers The Musical” were not just triumphs but also crucial learning experiences for the students, offering them a chance to explore contemporary and diverse musical styles. Much like the University Players’ decision to let students choose “The Play That Goes Wrong” – arguably one of the city’s best live shows this year – St. Clair’s program could greatly benefit from giving its students similar opportunities to stretch their “legs” and lead in selecting a more varied annual lineup. This approach would not only diversify their skills but also enrich the cultural fabric of the community with a wider range of theatrical experiences.
In the end, St. Clair College’s “Holiday Special” was more than a Christmas variety show; it was a testament to the evolving talent and creativity within the music theatre program and its place within the city’s theatrical ecosystem. It was a nostalgic trip, leaving the audience in eager anticipation of what the college will present next.
List of Performers:
- Class of 2024: Sahiba Arora, Josie Bianchi, Emma Cannon, Erica Csikany, Jenna Fisch, Claire Jones Fright, Paige Moore, Tatum Moore, Marot Sammartino, Gracienne Swarbrick, Camryn Winnicky Lewis, Alex Wyant.
- Class of 2025: Scarlett Colmenares, Madison Olivier, Ariana Harris, Persephone Sedgwick, Joanna Empey, Mackenzie Simpson, Brooklyn Golding, Jordan Youssef.