By Patsy Isenberg
The dress rehearsal for “A Merry, Merry McCree Christmas” Wednesday promised a worthwhile way to spend some holiday time this weekend. The production, which opened Thursday evening, features 27 numbers performed by a big group of enthusiastic local thespians.
One standout in particular is the artistic director of the production, Chris Young. He has gathered together a group of talented singers, dancers and actors from the area. Young directs in a very relaxed style that encourages the cast to have fun with it which appears to really draw out their abilities. He also sings beautifully in several numbers while managing to showcase the rest of the cast’s surprising level of singing ability for amateurs. The show features 20 performers from early elementary school-aged children to seniors. The youngest in the cast are A’Marion Harrison and Raiyyn Kennedy.
Other people who provide their talents to the success of any show should be mentioned too. The band is directed by the father of the artistic director, Dr. Phil Young, who plays keyboard. The band is on stage during the whole show. Also in the band are Rayfield Banks on bass guitar, Tomothy Freeman on drums and Ronald Terry on lead guitar. The New McCree Theatre also features a long list of skilled technical staff and artistic non-cast members as well.
The numbers are all Christmas favorites. The first half of the show features mostly religious songs such as “Oh Holy Night,” “Away In A Manger,” which is performed by lovely Sherita Swanagan as Mother Mary holding the Baby Jesus, and “Do You Hear What I Hear?” a gorgeous rendition by sisters Erin and Ariya Canada. The numbers in the religious part of the presentation are cleverly tied together through the use of small sets arranged on the stage. Then the theme moves on to more popularized Christmas music like “White Christmas” which features a male group from the cast with the lead sung by Fred Fife who has an amazing voice range. Then the whole cast sings “12 Days Of Christmas” while encouraging the audience to participate.
The second half of the show is more about secular Christmas fun celebrated now such as Santa Claus, snow and love. First off, several of the younger cast members gather around their grandmother, played by Billie Lindo, as she reads “The Night Before Christmas” ending up with singing “Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer” with young Myckal Powell adding his great voice to the lead. Another standout performance in this half is Tiana Rison singing a soulful version of “The Christmas Song” down by the fireplace.
Next up in the second half, the stage is transformed into a club scene for a number that features John Vincent crooning “Merry Christmas Baby” while three female cast members decked out in red dance skillfully behind him. Whitney Frierson then belts out an energetic version of “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” The show ends with most of the cast gathered on stage to sing “Joy To The World.” This last number features two remarkable voices from the show, Alina Oliver and Tiana Rison, sharing the lead.
The show opened Thursday at 7 p.m. with another performance scheduled 7 p.m. Friday night and two on Saturday, a matinee at 2 p.m. and then again at 7 p.m.. Regular admission is $10, students and seniors $5. The theatre is offering two tickets for one price of $10 on opening night. The theater is located at 2040 W. Carpenter Rd. For more information call 810-787-2200.
EVM staff writer Patsy Isenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.