By Angie Lai, Guest Writer
The Dionysius Theatre and Performing Arts Academy launches its debut season with an original holiday-themed musical, Home for the Holidays.
Conceived by a group of performers, including the company's artistic director and founder, Steve DeBruyne, the plot is reminiscent of the old "let's put on a show" movies from the 1940s, with a group of performers rehearsing for a night of holiday entertainment.
But not all is calm and bright for a couple of the characters, namely the show's two stars, Portia (Marlene Inman-Reilly) and Christopher (DeBruyne). Portia's upset because her husband, Eric (Nicholas LaGrassa), is currently serving in the Armed Forces and will not be able to come home for Christmas. The news is so distressing that she refuses to perform, to everyone's concern except her excitable understudy Belinda (Elizabeth Jaffe). Christopher, meanwhile, is busy venting his dislike of the holiday, the cause of which is revealed in the second act. Nick, the stage manger (Frank B. Stevens) and his wife (Patti Byrd Jarosz), try to keep a positive outlook going through their gentle reminders of what the season should be about.
Pulling recognizable songs from a variety of sources, ranging from White Christmas to The Muppet Christmas Carol, as well as those constantly featured on the "all-Christmas" radio stations, the show gears itself to a wide demographic while remaining completely family friendly. The transitions between songs are seamless, so that the action moves in an almost constant flow; the two hour running time should be no problem for younger kids to handle.
There is also comedy aplenty, supplied by Jaffe and the various members of the ensemble (Jared Schneider, Mary Jo Del Vero, and Lesa Doa), which is, again, certain to appeal to the younger viewers. Audience members of all ages are certain to be impressed by the quality of voices on display, especially those showcased by DeBruyne, Inman-Reilly, and the charming Sarah Brown (playing Jean, one of the Franklin Sisters and Christopher's love interest). And despite a somewhat flat line delivery, Stevens proves charming and likeable, provided with a true shining moment while performing the song "Believe" from The Polar Express. Overall, it seems safe to say that Dionysius Theatre's first production is a sign of good things to come. Audiences should appreciate they have chosen to become part of the developing arts scene here in Michigan.
Dionysus Theatre and Performing Arts Academy's "Home for the Holidays" continues at Hartland High School Auditorium, 10635 Dunham Rd., Hartland, Friday-Sunday through Dec. 23. Tickets: $28. For information: 517-672-6009 or www.diotheatre.com.