The opening moments of A Show Palace Christmas Spectacular, playing through Dec. 25 at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre in Hudson, seem more like a Christmas cantata than Christmas spectacular.
Yes, Todd Everest's set is gorgeous — oversized toys, running lights framing the stage, Christmas tree, shimmering red curtain, even a couple of discreet Stars of David topping the stage arches and a menorah perched on a theater side rail to suggest a little religious diversity. And Pat Werner's costumes are colorful and bright, ranging from traditional dance outfits to Victorian bonnets, top hats and hoop skirts as lovely as a Currier and Ives greeting card.
But though the multipart harmony is gorgeous, the carolers are rather static, barely moving as they sing Deck the Halls; Joy to the World; God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen; The First Noel; Jingle Bells; a stunning Carol of the Bells, then a hushed The Little Drummer Boy and songs from an unspecified "old country."
Except for the lively Winter Wonderland opening, it's not until the show gets to It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas that the movement begins, the stage comes alive with swirling dancers, and the audience is jolted out of a post-feast stupor that may have set in after the sumptuous holiday buffet. Then there's some patter as the young dancers joke about not knowing who Perry Como and Lena Horne are.
The first act shines with three, yes, spectacular solos: Ralph Prentice Daniel doing The Christmas Song in a smooth croon, Kristina Miranda Sloan nailing the Judy Garland favorite Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas in a pitch-perfect mezzo-soprano and Ramaad Morris doing one of the two best numbers in the show, a soaring, gorgeous White Christmas (the other is his gospel treatment of Go Tell It on the Mountain to close the show), done with genuine feeling and grace. What a gifted performer this young man is.
There's an animated, humorous version of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, complete with Santa's reindeer in sombreros dancing to mariachi music and a bridge of Is That You, Santa Claus? by the delightfully expressive Morris, decked out in orange sequin jacket. The first act closes with a jazzy spoof of The Nutcracker, with Raggedy Ann dolls instead of snowflake princesses, a very unusual Clara and an impressive March of the Wooden Soldiers.
In short, this is the epitome of an all-around, family-friendly show, albeit with some Christian overtones, the kind of production that almost anyone could comfortably enjoy.
Not so much for the second act, which is lovely and features several vocally dazzling solos — Colleen Campbell's powerful, pitch-perfect Ave Maria and Jay R. Goldberg's strong, heartfelt O Holy Night, as well as the aforementioned toe-tapping Go Tell It on the Mountain, to mention a few.
Still, it is 100 percent Christian, straight out of the King James version of the Holy Bible, and would be better suited for a church or parochial school performance than as half of a commercial theater's production. Those in the audience who are not Christian may feel left out, and some may even be offended. True, the show is billed as a "Christmas" show. But that term, for better or worse, has become so commercialized that it's as connected to Black Friday, trees decorated in historically pagan tradition and zany office parties as it is the birth of Jesus.
That said, A Show Palace Christmas Spectacular should delight young and old, and there's enough in Act 1 to satisfy the holiday spirit so that those who prefer not to see the second act can leave and still feel they've gotten their money's worth.