Theater Review: Touchstone ‘Christmas City Follies XX’ entertaining alternative
For the past 20 years, the professional acting ensemble of Touchstone Theatre, Bethlehem, has presented its “Christmas City Follies” to help audiences celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah, while satirizing the commercialization and human foibles that continue to distract from the true meaning of the holidays.
Directed by Jp Jordan, and utilizing original vaudeville-style sketches filled with humor, music and shopping carts, the “Follies,” through Dec. 22, is a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of shopping, package-wrapping and party-going.
At the opening night performance Dec. 5 seen for this review, familiar ensemble characters were back on stage working their magic. Old Guy (Bill George) comments as always on some of the possessions he takes from his crowded shopping cart, including a small figurine he calls the Baby Jesus. In this heartfelt way, he reminds us of whose birthday is being celebrated at Christmas.
Little Red (Mary Wright) is especially endearing in her efforts to fulfill her dream to go to New York City to become a Rockette dancer. At first, she ignores the advice that she is too short, but after trying to get taller, she finally accepts the reality that you can’t always get what you wish for, exactly, at least.
A very witty skit written by Sean Patrick Cassidy, in his first year with Touchstone, brings Christmas close to home.
An Uber driver (Adam Ercolani) picks up the Three Kings (Bill George, Emma Ackerman and Sean Patrick Cassidy) on their way to the Star of Bethlehem along Mountain Drive in Bethlehem.
The three are visiting friends Joseph and Mary, who recently gave birth to a son. Before they reach their destination, the kings argue over how much each of their gifts cost, and the driver observes wisely that the gifts likely will wind up in the corner, and the baby will play with the wrapping paper.
What is noteworthy about Touchstone and its multi-talented ensemble is that they can do so much with so little.
The Uber car consists of four boxes and a disconnected steering wheel held in the air by the driver.
The show’s spirited music is played on ukuleles.
A heartfelt telephone conversation across the country between a daughter (Samantha Beedle) and her father (Bill George) is staged with each actor standing on opposite sides of the stage holding a phone.
A marvelous shadow dance is created with one light behind a plain scrim on an empty stage.
“Christmas City Follies XX,” like the holiday it celebrates. is not about glitz and lots of technical stuff. It is, instead, an entertaining opportunity to share laughter, goodwill and holiday cheer. Go for it.
Tickets: Touchstone Theatre box office, 321 E. Fourth St., Bethlehem; touchstone.org; 610-867-1689. Group rates available. Touchstone offers a pay-what-you-will ticket at the door, when available, allowing walk-up patrons to name their ticket price.