“Still Dreaming of a White Christmas,” by Festival 56’s own Laura Brigham, is a cute little story about a traveling troop of four singing, dancing actors in the late 50s who have some group turmoil when a fifth performer is added into the show.
As a surprise to his fellow cast, Phil, Brendan Macera, invites Catalyn, Tayloir Pace, to join in their Christmas show. This upsets Bob, Matthew C. Scott, his wife Betty, Candice Dickinson, and her sister Judy, Kim McClay. Judy is the most upset by this because she feels very threatened by Catalyn. On top of this Judy, while unable to admit it to herself, has romantic feelings for Phil, who is apparently enamored by Catalyn. While the script itself seems to have too much go wrong and have it fixed too quickly, it works wonderfully as a catalyst moving between the wonderful songs — some of which are wonderful old classic Christmas carols, and some of which are new.
All five of the main actors performed wonderfully adding to the setting with a stylized almost over-the-top enthusiasm that harkens back to popular theater of the 1950s. Interspersed throughout the show, we are treated to a variety of music ranging from beautiful solo features to incredibly intricate duets with tight voicing that also helps build the pop feel from the 50s. Although a few of the music seemed a little low for some of the singers, the singing was very well done. Along with the beautiful auditory experience was a visual on in the form of dance, which superbly complimented the songs. The dancing showcased specifically the talents of both McClay and Macera, who had a multiple very well performed couple’s dances.
Along with the beautiful visuals of the dancing were a number of very fun costumes. Designed by Brigham and with sewing help from Liana Hall of the Princeton Arts Academy, the colorful and flashy costumes also helped to set the period and bring it alive in a very special way.
From a technical stand point, there were a couple of things that could have been tightened up, but on the whole the one man stage crew/running crew/stage manager did a fantastic job. From running the sound cue, lighting cues, set changes and drawing the curtain, his work for the night cut out for him.
This show is very family friendly with a happy and uplifting message and nothing that would be unseemly for children. It was a lot of fun, and could be a good time for all ages. Again, and I cannot say this enough, for a town the size of Princeton, we truly blessed to have theater of this quality running year round. My biggest critique of the evening is that Tiskilwa — the Gem of the Valley — does in fact have a town motto.
Upcoming shows are set for 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11, 12, 14, 17, 20 and 21, and 2 p.m. Dec. 21 at the Grace Performing Arts Center, 316 S. Main St. in Princeton.
Aaron Kaufmann of Tiskilwa, who holds a Bachelor of Arts in music education and a minor in theater, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.