by Terrance Mc Arthur
The Good Company Players’ holiday shows at the 2nd Space Theatre have always been a good bet; there’s no dinner with the show like you’d get at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, but the price is lower for a classic, love-and-laugh-filled memory or a musical review to lift the spirits. It could be The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, It’s a Wonderful Life: a Radio Play, or A Christmas Carol, or a lively conglomeration of comedy and music like this year’s Holly Jolly Holiday, playing through December 19.
It’s a lot like a fruitcake—a highly-edible one—full of little bits and pieces that surprise and delight. You’ll find traditional carols, tap dancing, elves, a polar bear with a fondness for a famous cola, ballet, a Let’s-Make-a-Deal-like game show, reindeer, Holmes and Watson, modern holiday songs, Mrs. Claus in two moods, Ebenezer Scrooge, echoes of the Andrews Sisters, humorous survival advice, cast reminiscences of holidays past, song parodies, and more. Some have been seen before, others are new.
With a smaller cast than past holiday reviews, Holly Jolly Holiday still manages to pack a lot of performer power into one package. Janet Glaudé, Dorie Hamby, and Mary Piona return from 2018’s Good Company for Christmas revue. Piona bustles with the energy of a giant in a tiny frame, as an elf, a story reader beset by unwelcome sound effects, and as a voice of love, peace, and sanity in a world gone mad. Hamby sings and dances, shows motherly pride, and always seems to have a wry smile on her lips and an impish twinkle in her eye. Glaudé mostly sings, but oh how she sings, filling “Do You Hear What I Hear” with a voice that truly is as big as the sea.
Amalie Larsen knocks all the cheesiness off of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” turning it into a crystalline thing of beauty. Terry Lewis provides live music for special numbers, and participates in an unusual ballet with Christopher Hoffman and Billy Anderson. Hoffman is a cuddly, cheerful soul, tossed into silly costumes and comic routines, as well as telling a tender family memory. Anderson plays Watson to Lewis’s Holmes, and joins Piona and Lewis in a lively, condensed version of the Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, incorporating audience volunteers (front row, beware!).
Kylee Leyva has a special time to shine as she lists the forbidden subjects for a successful family gathering. Donaday Chapman, after many years away from GCP, returns in triumph, glowing as a disillusioned Mrs. Claus, singing out her frustrations like a nightclub chanteuse, cocktail in one hand, peppermint candy cane (wielded like a cigarette holder) in the other.
The three youngest cast members—Chloe Dumore, Kailyn Sanders, and Maisie Van Vleet—pop up in many ways in many guises, fresh-faced and eager at all times.
Holly Jolly Holiday will warm the winter heart, put a smile on your face, and send your mind on a trip into memories treasured or forgotten. Hurry to the 2nd Space Theatre, 928 E. Olive Ave, in Fresno. For tickets and further information, contact www.gcplayers.com, or call (559) 266-9494.
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, and also on podbean.