Parkland Press

Friday, June 5, 2020
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY THE PINES DINNER THEATREFrom left, Jarrett Bloom, Shakil Azizi and Nina Celedonio, “Pines Country Christmas,” The Pines Dinner Theatre, Allentown. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY THE PINES DINNER THEATREFrom left, Jarrett Bloom, Shakil Azizi and Nina Celedonio, “Pines Country Christmas,” The Pines Dinner Theatre, Allentown.

Theater Review:

Wednesday, November 27, 2019 by CAROLE GORNEY Special to The Press in Focus

‘Pines’ goes ‘Country’ with original songs for ‘Christmas’ show

Christmas has arrived at The Pines Dinner Theatre, wrapped in original and traditional holiday music and lyrics, and tied up with a spirited cast of five singers, dancers and musicians.

“Pines Country Christmas,” through Dec. 29, is doing its best to prove that this is the most wonderful time of the year.

In the Nov. 17 performance seen for this review, “Country Christmas” opened with a hand-clapping, foot-stomping, original song, “Christmas Time in the Country is Here.” The number pulled out all the stops with cast members Don Hart on acoustic guitar, and Shakil Azizi playing the fiddle. Also, on stage were musicians Beth McElroy, and the amazing Stacy Bechtel, who did time on the piano, banjo and mandolin.

Others among the five original songs, “Country Christmas Feeling” and “Who is this Child?, were written by the show’s music director Bechtel, Gene Culkin and Oliver Blatt, who produced the show with Stacey Yoder.

The show’s rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” with its own lyrics and stage business is a comic tradition not to be missed.

Old favorites like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” were given an upbeat treatment, with cast member Nina Celedonio adding tap dancing to her singing during the number. Later, she was joined by Jarrett Bloom in a tap duet.

Celedonio and Bloom are charming as the show’s young love interests. She is a city girl visiting Bloom’s family in the country, and obseves when she arrives that it is very quiet.

Famous last words.

It is a Pines’ custom to leave the “C’ in Christmas with its nativity story, told this year simply but very effectively. The narrative begins with a country version of “If I Were a Carpenter,” a moving duet between Stacey B. Yoder and Shakil Azizi as Mary and Joseph.

Azizi’s rendition of “O Holy Night,” another Pines’ tradition, is compelling in its staging and in the singer’s beautifully commanding voice.

Ditto for Celedonio’s singing of ‘What Child is This.”

Visually, Blatt’s set is sufficiently festive, and as always, it makes maximum use of the intimate space.

Things sparkle in Act Two with costume designer Yoder’s choice of gorgeous red evening dresses, along with frequent wardrobe changes. Her muted, matching colors for Mary and Joseph’s costumes are a nice choice.

There isn’t much in terms of plot in “Pines Country Christmas, but the best advice is to forget about plot, and just sit back and enjoy the music. There is something everyone is bound to enjoy.

Tickets: Pines Dinner Theatre box office, 448 N. 17th St., Allentown; pinesdinnertheatre.com; 610-433-2333