“Christmas Is…” joys audiences this season

[Megan Paige Smith] The ensemble of “Christmas Is…” gather around the Clauses. The musical is running in the Haugh Performing Arts Center, with performances Dec. 8, 9, 14, 15 and 16.

“Christmas Is…”—and was—an energetic, family-friendly performance.

The annual holiday extravaganza, with more than 150 performers, is presented in two acts: a concert of traditional carols and a musical.

Act One featured the Citrus Singers, Women’s Ensemble, Concert Choir and orchestra.

Conductor Douglas Austin opened the show with the Citrus Singers, who did a phenomenal job showcasing the traditional sounds of the season with songs like “Silent Night” and “Deck the Halls.” The singers entertained the audience with a hand bells performance to the tune of “Parade of Soldiers.” It was one of the most comical pieces of the show thanks to the overly enthusiastic dance moves and exaggerated facial expressions.

By contrast, the Women’s Ensemble, conducted by Vonetta Mixson and accompanied by pianist Jeremy Logeot, seemed to lack passion and, more importantly, volume. They sang a sweet, romantic set, ending with the classic “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

The Concert Choir then took stage with vocal director Martin Green conducting. In sync with the orchestra, the choir injected a lively spirited feeling with each note. However, soloists Jessica Manson, Mara Richard, Garrison Holder, Patricia Eredia, Samantha Visco and Kristina Brown were difficult to hear, and the lighting technicians struggled to focus the spotlight on the soloists while they sang.

The second act featured a play written just for this holiday production. The plot focuses on Betty (Essence Graves) who wants to join the most popular sorority on campus. However, new members must make their final pledge on Christmas Eve and Betty has to decide whether she will stay and complete pledge week or go home to spend Christmas with her family.

Her journey leads her to the land of Freezonia where she meets Perry the polar bear (David Lentz), Wally the walrus (Lewis Padilla) and many other friendly faces like the Ice Queen (Beda Spindola) and of course good ol’ Mr. and Mrs. Claus (Garrison Holder and Amanda Lee).

[Megan Paige Smith] “Christmas Is…” performers Beda Spindola and Kevin Gasio pose.

In the final scene of the play, Betty decides to trust her heart and go home for the holidays. Her decision lands her a spot as the sorority’s newest house member and they celebrate the occasion by inviting all the children from the audience on stage to sing and dance with the cast.

The script was cheerful and incorporated a modern sense of humor. It kept the audience laughing and it included lively, playful dance numbers choreographed by dance professor John Vaughan.

“Christmas Is…”  was a jovial production, capturing the true spirit of the season. From carols to snowflakes, the North Pole at the Haugh Performing Arts Center was filled with all kinds of Christmas magic.

The show will be performed Dec. 8, 9, 15, and 16 at 2 p.m. and Dec. 14 at 8 p.m. General admission is $22, for students and seniors, $20 and children 16 & under are $15.