The Show Palace Dinner Theatre kicked off the holiday season Thursday with a crazy-quilt musical, Big Apple Christmas. It has three cute kids, four wacky hoodlums, six dancing girls, 10 handsome sets, 12 terrific songs and scores of colorful costumes.
All it needs is some unity, coherence and warmth to make it a Christmas keeper.
As it is, the plot seems thrown together: not quite quirky enough to be zany, not serious enough to be dramatic, and not head-in-the-clouds enough to be a romance. Instead, there are pieces of each that provide moments of enjoyment or laughter, but strung together, feel as though someone forgot to put the thread in the needle before starting to sew. Hold it up to admire, and it falls apart.
As the curtain rises, Nick, a.k.a. Santa (Monte Michelsen) tells us that we're in 1954 New York City, but the year and place have little, if any, connection to the plot or musical score. Then the dancers high-kick to Big Apple Christmas in short skirts and knee-length white bloomers (in 1954?!).
We meet the three kids — Christopher (Eric Alexander Vance), Tommy (Matthew Romeo) and Paige (Megan Sell) — who leave the cold streets where they live to sneak into a shop where toys come alive to dance and sing.
In quick succession, two hoodlums, Rocco and Lou Nunzio (Joel Gennari, Michael Miller), threaten the shop owner, Mr. Mattocs (Spencer Morrow), and perhaps kill him, the kids are perhaps witnesses, and the hoods perhaps promise their foghorn-voiced Mama (Mark Melton) to do away with the kids, though it's unclear if they plan to rub them out, despite the brandishing of guns.
There are chase scenes, snow scenes, a sudden romance between Detective Rex Darlington (David Valentine) and a newspaper reporter, April Hollythorne (Elizabeth Claire Bailey), an "ice-skating" scene, some more dancing, a finale and an audience sing-along.
The best moments are the original songs by composer Stan Collins and lyricist Alison Burns.
Valentine's rendition of the romantic ballad Unexpected earned the show's biggest applause, and deservedly so. The song is solid, and Valentine's soaring voice does it justice. His romantic duet with Ms. Bailey's April, Now We Know, could be a chart-topping single if it were on an album — good lyrics, good tune, nicely done.
The comic highlight comes when Eddie Nunzio (Lukas Cyr) and young Romeo bond in Chip Off the Old Block, and Romeo gets a chance to show a little of his acting chops and pipes, leaving the audience to look forward to the time they'll see more of him.
The novelty tune Frosted showcases the comic and singing talents of Gennari and Miller.
Beyond that, the show moves from place to place, looking pretty and sounding sweet, with familiar movie lines tossed off here and there ("You'll shoot your eye out, kid"; "It's going to be a bumpy …") for a quick laugh.