CENTERVILLE — Five Carols for Christmas, written and directed by Jim Christian with music by Kenneth Plane, playing at the Leishman Stage at CenterPoint Legacy Theatre, is the fun story of five friends named Carol who are working to put on a holiday musical show. Set in the 1950’s, the production is full of fun and jolly and mishaps and power outages and much more.
With author at the helm of the directing of the show, there was much to praise. The five ladies, Stephanie Pugh, Liz Corona, Mikey Larson, Lindsea Garside, and Kim Tolman have amazing talent, and a knack for harmonizing flawlessly throughout the entire show. Their sound is reminiscent of the era of the Andrews Sisters, and everything from the costumes by Janell Roundy, to the hair and makeup by Lindea Gardside, to the set by Christian and Brian Hahn reflected the homage to Christmas and entertainment of days gone by.
In addition to the Carols, the script has a role for a cousin of one of the Carols: Ray, the piano player (played by Sean Bishop). While Bishop had some excellent facial expressions, and a lovely little dance and song number entitled “Sissies,” I was disappointed that he was only mimicking playing the piano along with the canned piano accompaniment. It was very obvious that the character of Ray was not truly playing the piano, and it left some of the songs feeling more forced and less connected, which was a shame when coupled with such strength from the vocalists. I am not entirely sure why the production team decided to cast someone and not have them play the piano as part of the role. An actor playing live piano would have made the evening far more entertaining and also provided an opportunity to showcase the local talent that Utah has in spades. Surely a male pianist could have been found for this production.
Each of the five women excelled in showing their personalities throughout the production, which has been updated since I first saw it. (The show now runs about an hour and 40 minutes with an intermission.) Carol Ann (played by Pugh), appears to be the organizer of the musical show and has a penchant for things going her way. In the second act during the number “Ding-Dong Debacle,” where her perfect plans go awry, Pugh does some of the most humorous facial acting that I have ever witnessed at CenterPoint. From trying to keep her cool to showing her displeasure, I was intrigued by the level of communication Pugh could do without saying a word. Karil, who goes by Kitty (played by Larson), was the perfect picture of the talented women from that era, reminding me of a cross between Bette Davis and Betty White. Car’l Noyes, or Noyesy (played by Tolman), had excellent comedic timing and served as the evenings best source of comic relief. Carroll Ling (played by Garside), had such a innocent persona in character that it was almost believable that she could be as pure and slightly clueless at the script would suggest. And finally Corona as Queryl, or Miss Q, has such a talented deep voice that her strong alto rounded out the musical numbers well.
The show is full of little jokes that poke towards things that would have been common place in the 1950s, such as fallout shelters and cooking advice from the magazines that Pinterest has since replaced. While some songs like the “Gal Can’t Bake” and “The Worldwide Santa Claus Parade” made me chuckle about yesteryear, others (such as “Marvelous Magazines”) can be over the top and almost annoying in the execution. However, the ending moral of Christmas being about much more than the best song and the best gift and the best treat was endearing. And the musicality of this cast was enough to make up for the pitfalls in order to provide an enjoyable time. I also appreciated lengthening the script and adding enough to the show to provide two acts, which also made for interesting set changes and more opportunity for choreography (uncredited in the program), and better use of props and effects. Anyone who enjoys good humor and Christmas musical celebration will have a fine time at Five Carols for Christmas.