Theater review: ‘Christmas Spectacular’ at Flat Rock Playhouse

Kendra Jo Brook, Katie Barton and Ben Hope in A Flat Rock Playhouse Christmas. Photo by Treadshots

As a child, there was nothing more comforting and predictable than Christmas at my grandparents’ house. My grandfather got the same gift every year — a giant box of deluxe assorted chocolates. It was massive to my young eyes. So many pieces of glorious chocolate, such variety. There was something for everyone, no matter what you liked. That’s Christmas to me. Flat Rock Playhouse’s Christmas Spectacular is a delightful confection just in time for the holidays. It transported me like a magical embodiment of those childhood memories. The holiday musical continues its run through Friday, Dec. 22.

Created, directed and choreographed by Matthew Glover (assisted by Maddie Frank), the show is like an invitation to gather around the Flat Rock Playhouse Christmas tree for some holiday cheer with songs and stories. Scott Treadway weaves his way through the show, telling tales of the history of Flat Rock Playhouse and his deeply personal connection with it.

A powerhouse chorus of all ages elevate songs like “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” to a goose-bump-inducing crescendo in the first half of the show. They are aided by the nimble musical direction of Ethan Andersen, who plays at a grand piano at center stage. Andersen tackles many musical forms across the two hours, from classical to standards like “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “The Christmas Song.” The show also delves into numbers from The Nutcracker, as well as country music. Most impressive, perhaps, is Andersen’s musical duet with fiddle player Kendra Jo Brook, who plays throughout the production. Their rendition of “Sleigh Ride” is fun and inventive.

Stars in the array of talent include Erin Rubico, who gets to be playful and flirty in numbers like “The Man With The Bag” and “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” Preston Dyar also shines in several numbers, notably “Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth” with Ben Hope. Hope himself is a standout, lending his country music sensibilities to much of Act 2, teaming with his real-life wife, Katie Barton, and fiddler Brook, on numbers like “I’ll Be Home With Bells On,” “Meet Me Under The Mistletoe,” and the Patty Loveless song “Bluegrass White Snow.” Hope also impresses solo with his moving guitar version of Sara Bareilles‘ “Love is Christmas.”

The show is also filled with dazzling dance numbers that encompass ballet, kick lines, clogging and more.

Christmas music is always an emotional mixed bag. There are lots of sacred and secular songs that cause deep resonance for many people. Sadness, longing, hope and a sense of serenity envelop you like Grandma’s quilt. And it makes you smile — as will this show.

WHAT: Christmas Spectacular
WHERE: Flat Rock Playhouse, 2661 Greenville Highway, Flat Rock,
WHEN: Through Friday, Dec. 22, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. $15-$50

About Jeff Messer
playwright, actor, director and producer, Jeff Messer has been most recently known as a popular radio talk show host. He has been a part of the WNC theatre scene for over 25 years, and actively works with and supports most of the theatres throughout the region. Follow me @jeffdouglasmess

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