That Time Of Year
At last, a show that is really about the holidays. There are no ghosts, no green monsters, and, sadly, no Bing Crosby. Instead, there are stressful family visits, drama about overeating, and even a broken heart or two.
That Time Of Year, a musical revue currently playing at the York Theatre Company, provides a refreshing and entertaining look at the holiday season. Performed by a multi-talented cast of five people, the show addresses all perspectives of the holiday season imaginable, and then some.
There is nothing that they don’t poke fun at throughout the night. On a sleekly designed stage, adorned with large gift boxes and bows in various sizes, the show’s 30 numbers are performed in costumes appropriate (or inappropriate) to the numbers. They touch on everything from a frisky Mrs. Claus begging Santa to stay home on Christmas Eve to a dreidel informing the audience on how to spin him correctly. The jazzy rendition of “People With Obligations to Our Parents,” lamenting how many secrets are kept for the sake of peace at family gatherings.
The songs, written by Sanford Marc Cohen, Nicholas Levin, Donald Oliver, Kyle Rosen, Brad Ross, Mark Wherry, and Wendy Wilf, are sharp and witty, taking digs at everything possible, but also maintaining a fairly light-hearted spirit. While the music stirs the emotions of love and gratitude that are so prominent during the holidays, it also touches on the commercialism and frustrations that unfortunately result from attempting to achieve the former.
Everything from Biblical conflicts and ancient miracles to stress from shopping and weight issues are set to music, and the quality of the writing is equal to the quality of the performances. The entire cast delivers, and it delivers well. Kerri Garbis’ rendition of a frustrated Mrs. Claus in “Stay Home Tonight” is highly amusing, while Erin Maguire’s “They All Come Home For Christmas” personifies the sweet satisfaction that mothers feel when their families gather for the holidays. Bridget Bierne’s “A Country Christmas” adds a bittersweet timeliness with a touch of comedy to the revue. When the three women come together to sing “Holiday Lament (The Fruitcake Song)” in doo-wop melody, the harmonies are lovely and the lyrics are sidesplitting, as they ask, “Everybody loves to eat fruit,” they sing. “Everybody loves to eat cake. So why is putting them together such a horrible mistake?”
Nick Verina gives a performance of impressive versatility, switching from a live dreidel to a teenage boy with a crush with surprising ease, as well as playing a puzzled Joseph, wondering how Mary became pregnant. And Jonathan Rayson gives a beautifully understated performance throughout the evening, with his quiet love song, “You’re the Reason Why” and the extremely moving, “Candles in the Window,” sung in the character of a Holocaust survivor.
While the topics are tried and true, the delivery is not. Leaving the York Theatre, I felt happy and lighthearted – like I was in the holiday spirit. I can’t say that I’ll actually eat any fruitcake this year, but I probably won’t make fun of it either.