IF YOU GO
What: Musical revue featuring holiday favorites, Santa Claus and dancing elves
When: Tuesday through Sunday evenings with selected matinees through Dec. 25.
Where: 1380 Colonial Boulevard, Fort Myers (in Royal Palm Square)
Cost: $27 to $51, show-only tickets & group discounts available
Information: 239-278-4422 or broadwaypalm.com
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FORT MYERS — Broadway Palm serves up a delightful high-calorie smörgåsbord of Christmas tunes in well-worn revue "Holly Jolly Christmas," a joyful concoction of cornball fun that slathers on the Cheez-Whiz with one hand and reaches for more Velveeta with the other.
Directed and choreographed by Broadway Palm's resident dance guru Amy Marie McCleary, the show whips through more than three dozen holiday favorites in two hours while littering the stage with jokes worse than a snowbird's driving. How bad are they? "Santa, why do you have three gardens? So I can ho, ho, ho all year!" Cue the reluctant chuckles - even as Santa warns from the stage "These aren't going to get any better."
The show acknowledges - and celebrates - the silliness, send-ups and feel-good goofiness. It has no choice - any attempt at playing the stale jokes for comedy in and of themselves would ring false.
Chuck Caruso (a jolly Santa with a booming voice and a deft comic touch) and Cheyenne Nelson (a perky Mrs. Santa) serve as ringmasters for a crop of dancers, singers, elves, toys, children, cowboys, cowgirls and tap-dancing reindeer over the course of two hours. The pair share solid chemistry and play the silly comedy for the over-the-top holiday hokum it is.
Novelty tunes "Feliz Navidad" and "Mele Kalikimaka" get entertaining workouts. Besotted elves Nutmeg (Laura Hayhurst) and Eggnog (an excitable, manic Jayar Garcia - he has "low elf esteem," another clinker), re-enact "All I Want for Christmas" with Hayhurst in a sparkling, low-cut gown, a chair, a bare stage and more legs than a bucket of chicken. Don't worry though - the show is definitely G-rated.
What else will you get? Broadway Palm regular Scott Moreau sings "Christmas Eve in My Hometown," a lilting ballad to stranded travelers that segues into a heartwarming family reunion segment stuffed with tunes like "Christmas Memories" and "Through the Eyes of a Child." Kerry Lambert gets a solo with "Pure Imagination" - from the 1971 film "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" - which has no connection to the holidays at all - but Lambert (decked in a purple acid jazz costume) sells the song as a paean to the dreams of sugarplum fairies, magical elves and holiday wishes and it works, somehow. Perhaps that's the magic of Christmas?
Classic tune "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" serves as the jumping off point for a parade of toys, led by dancing cowboys singing "Root'n Toot'n Santa Claus" and a soulful ballet from Russian dolls. Later, "Kris & Konnie Kringle's Kavalkade of Christmas" delivers dance spectaculars like "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus," "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and a spectacular Elvis-inspired number - including a white sequined jumpsuit - for "Blue Christmas."
The show's nod to faith features a nativity scene and decidedly secular up-tempo takes on "We Three Kings," "Do You Hear What I Hear" and "Little Drummer Boy" that make up for in spirit what they lack in solemnity. A full company version of classic "Silent Night" rolls out over the theater like a tidal wave though - and demonstrates the song's timeless power.
"Holly Jolly" saves perhaps the best bit for last. Santa's reindeer - led by a fussy Rudolph (Walter Kemp II) tap to ... well "Rudolph," obviously. The frenetic combination of sight (enough sequins to carpet a ballroom), sound (nine reindeer tapping) and a familiar tune plus McCleary's precise lines of dancers capture the energy, color, feel-good emotions and general frantic, happy bustle of a merry Christmas.
What "Holly Jolly Christmas" does exceptionally well is understand its audience and aim to please, nothing more. For little ones, ultra-bright costumes and hyper-kinetic choreography keep the stage in constant motion while adults will find a bevy of cute tunes belted out by smiling, happy faces. This show ain't Shakespeare - but it knows that; all "Holly Jolly Christmas" wants to do is send audiences back out into the night with a smile on their face, cheer in their hearts and perhaps a little more goodwill to man than they started with.