Christmas Legends On Stage at the Reedley Opera House

Dec 7, 2022 | 2022 Articles, Terrance V. Mc Arthur, Theatre

by Terrance Mc Arthur

Looking for that warm, cozy, Christmas-y feeling on a cold, dark night? Head for the historic Redley Opera House and the River City Theatre Company’s Christmas Legends, playing through December 18.
This show is different than earlier Legends shows in Reedley, where performers paid tribute to musical artists by emulating the styles and singing classic hits. This time, you are invited to a slightly rowdy Christmas party where fun is had by almost all, and holiday tunes run rampant . . . with a storyline.

(Left to right back) Erik Valencia, Sarah Wiebe, Jeff Lusk
(Left to right middle) Cassandra Charles, Jacob Alvarado, Chrystal Laita, DJ Reimer
(Front) Amber Paredez

It’s in a lovely, homey setting, repurposed and redecorated from RCTC’s previous show, Arsenic and Old Lace, redecorated with all the trappings of the season. The pillars that support the balcony are wrapped in festive red ribbons. Most of the cast were clad in red. My wife wondered where they found all the red shirts for the men.

Matt Wiebe, who scripted the show, is the cheerful Matt, a combination of Burl Ives and a Hallmark movie could-he-really-be-Santa character. He acts as host and bartender, interacts with the audience, and moves the plot along. His genial manner (with a touch of let-me-tell-you-the-truth-about-that-character) keeps you interested and in on the jokes.

DJ Reimer kicks off the singing with “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” and leads a spirited rendition of “Mele Kalikemaka,” which becomes a hula-for-all. He’s tall and lanky, smooth and cheerful, and easy to listen to. Sarah Wiebe sings a boisterous “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree,” sways a graceful hula, and puts heart into “My Favorite Things.”

(Left to right) Chrystal Laita, Sarah Wiebe, DJ Reimer, Cassandra Charles, Amber Paredez

Jacob Alvarado is jolly on “Holly Jolly” and wacky with “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer,” which gets the audience clapping and singing along with him. Chrystal Laita enters like a winter storm as the cook who spent all her time preparing the party food without any help, lets loose with a Wall-of-Sound version of Winter Wonderland, and gives a Wynonna Judd flavor to “Where Are You, Christmas? (from Home Alone).”

Jeff Lusk is the mean, Grinchy, why-did-he-come-to-the-party character with a thing about shrimp and paper-wrapped guest soaps. He twists the lyrics of songs like “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “I’m Mister Heat Miser” to refer to himself as he wreaks havoc among the partygoers. You want him to get his comeuppance, and, since the attitude of the evening leans toward Christmas specials of the 60s and 70s, he does get his in a non-violent but satisfying way. Cy Laita is only a third-grader, but he stands up straight and tall as he charms his way through “Blue Christmas” and “Someday at Christmas.” He makes some strong marks on the evening.

(Left to right back) Jacob Alvarado, Cassandra Charles, Sarah Wiebe
(Left to right front) Cy Laita, Amber Paredez, Chrystal Laita

Erik Valencia directs with a gentle hand, and he rolls through lively renditions of “We Need a Little Christmas” and “A Marshmallow World.”

A pair of power hitters round out the cast. Cassandra Charles gives a smoky, sensual, playful quality to “Santa Baby,” the Eartha Kitt tribute to conspicuous greed, and she works wonders on the girl-group version of “Sleigh Ride.” Amber Paredez is reminiscent of America Ferrera, but she rocks the Opera House with “Baby Please Come Home” and does a credibly incredible turn with Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” There are some great vocals in this show. The ladies look elegant, and the whole cast seems to enjoy being there.

(Left to right) Matt Wiebe, Sarah Wiebe, DJ Reimer, Jacob Alvarado, Cassandra Charles, Amber Paredez

It’s a fun evening with people you’d like to party with, filled with more than twenty Christmas pop tunes, and the chocolate cake with peppermint crunch is a great dessert. The historic 1903 Opera House building is at 1720 10th Street in Reedley. For information and to purchase tickets, go to their website or call 559-638-6500. You ought to go, because it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas (song not included).

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. We just posted a Christmas episode!

Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section. You can also find more theatre coming up on KRL’s Local Theatre event page.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur worked for the Fresno County Public Library for three decades. He is retired, but not retiring. A storyteller, puppeteer, writer, actor, magician, basketmaker, and all-around interesting person, his goal is to make life more unusual for everyone he meets.

1 Comment

  1. “Where Are You Christmas” is actually by Faith Hill from “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” with Jim Carrey. 🙂


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