Letters and Christmas Lore
By Marcina Zaccaria
How do you say exactly the right thing at Christmas time? This Christmas, Stomping Ground Theatre Company and Gwen Arment explore exactly that question, in a musical by Paul Cozby and Laura Bergquist.
Performed at the Metro Baptist Church with Laura Darrell, Rob Richardson, Bret Shuford, and Catherine Walker, Not Another Christmas Letter! The Musical is an episodic, sardonic, 75 minute musical about what shouldn’t happen while trimming the tree or shopping for Christmas presents. Competitive decorating, relapsing children, and lonely memories of Christmas Past are all part of the journey.
Paul Cozby, who provided the Book, Lyrics, and Additional Music, is originally from Texas. He gives us an inside glimpse at a suburban world outside of hustle and bustle of Macy’s, Times Square, and Rockefeller Center. Not Another Christmas Letter! The Musical originally premiered at The Forum Theatre Company in Wichita, KS, and the disgruntled characters sound a bit different than the average, jaded New Yorker.
In a world full of Lowe’s and front yards with outdoor mailboxes, parents wonder if their children will ever grow up. The actors don’t suffer from a sense of empty disillusionment, but rather, a contemporary sadness that comes after bitter self-reflection. Knowing that with good spirit and observed lessons, they could easily “Spin It,” they attempt again to say all the right things in all the right ways.
After a song about “Another Lousy Christmas,” it’s off to the mall for the “Black Friday Blues.” The musical, presented as a series of vignettes, lets us see into each of the characters for no longer than a moment or two. On a spare stage, with bits of set pieces quickly brought in and out by the cast, Laura Darrell (Suze in Kid Victory at the Vineyard Theater) sings “Single Girl Christmas.” She’s a petite powerhouse, who brings humor to the longing and the by-gone days without a husband. Her performance was very complete and led to the next Company number, “A Picture Perfect Family.” The cast explored “The Ghosts of Christmas Past” and the attachment of family before singing “Tied to Her.” This was a shining moment for both Laura Darrell and Catherine Walker (Broadway’s Mary Poppins, Ragtime, and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder). The harmonies were blissful, and the acting was genuine and heartfelt. I wanted more from the script, though, and smother accompaniment.
The Company continued with “A Friendly, Little Christmas Competition” and “The 12 Days of Social Media Christmas.” Fun dance moves, provided by Director/ Choreographer Nick Demos, created an appropriate sense of holiday fervor. Bret Shuford (Paramour, Beauty and the Beast) and Rob Richardson (Jekyll and Hyde, The Fantasticks) then wrestled with Christmas presents in “Some Assembly Required.” Then, the Company journeyed past Christmas Eve, ending with “Another Perfect Christmas.” Although these blasts into the modern world (with notions of how to keep up with tradition) were comical, the sensitive, great -sounding performances appear more like a recital (or benefit performance) than a complete, new musical for the stage. However, if you’re hoping for top-notch singing and empathy about “how to say it,” this one’s for you.
Not Another Christmas Letter! The Musical will be performed until December 20th at The Metro Baptist Church, located at 410 W. 40th Street.