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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Sing Hallelujah!

Where Was I Again? Dept.: Not far from this piece in my files was another holiday event I took in three decades ago. And how much less misanthropic I sound here than in this recently written screed!


WE GET SO ACCUSTOMED to Proctor’s Theatre as the sort of area uncle of show business, introducing us to talented friends, that it’s a surprise to be reminded of the theater’s own production ability.

Allen Mills
A few times a year, almost shyly, the theater sponsors its own show, but its Christmas bash tops them all. And this year, the fourth such, it topped anything that has come before. We could get used to this sort of thing.

“The Christmas Show” – they dropped the “Old-Fashioned” from the name this year – brings together a roster of local talent that covers most of the entertainment bases. There’s the Mighty Wurlitzer, of course, under the deft hands of Allen Mills; but add to that a couple of choruses, dancers galore, and scenery and effects aplenty.

Under the direction of Maria Bryce, this edition of what ought to be an annual event at least until the second coming took the best of what we saw a year ago and improved it. Making full use of the stage certainly helps. As if to flex their muscles right at the start, the crew gave us a village street complete with the Mohawk Valley Chorus, overcoated and scarved, singing “White Christmas” under a snowfall.

Then, for Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride,” a horse and sleigh were brought onstage. (So was a quartet of children, who responded to the audience’s ooohs by pelting them with snowballs. An enviable role.)

The dancers came from the Darlene Myers Studio; Angie Liao had the solo Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, after which a covey of costumed kids marched the March of the Toys. Then it was Proctor’s Theatre’s own Off-Broadway Babies with a tap-dancing kaleidoscope to the Parade of the Wooden Soldiers.

The Schenectady Brass Quintet took the spotlight in Eugene Gigout’s “Grande Choeur Dialogue” with the organ; this year there was a marvellously intricate cathedral interior onstage, courtesy desginer James Wyanski, in which the Myers Company performed an accompanying ballet.

Each of the three shows (twice on Saturday and Sunday afternoon) featured a different narrator in Clement Moore’s “Visit from Saint Nicholas” (that’s the correct title, for whatever it’s worth); Sunday afternoon we saw Steve Fitz settle into the oversized rocker to regale a bunch of scene-stealing children with the tale.

And, of course, there were traditional carols galore. From “Winter Wonderland” to “Silent Night” to the largest carol sing in the known universe (or so it seems when close to 3,000 voices get going together).

The first half is a matter of each segment topping the one that came before; this year, a considered effort clearly was made to do so with audience-pleasing results. Where else can you go in the second half but out to the audience, with a sing-along slide show flashed onto the theater’s screen. With the Mohawk Valley Chorus cleverly planted in the audience’s midst, it was a big sound indeed, although the women seemed much more eager than the men during those numbers (such as an extended “Good King Wenceslas”) when the sexes were so segregated. So much for the weaker sex.

Not much place to go after that than to the topper of ‘em all, Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus,” in which everyone joins in. I don’t know about you, but such a show is so infectious that I ran right out and bought a Christmas tree. And kept right on singing.

– Schenectady Daily Gazette, 14 December 1987

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