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PTC Gives Audiences a Dose of Holiday Cheer with “It Happened One Christmas”

PTC+Gives+Audiences+a+Dose+of+Holiday+Cheer+with+It+Happened+One+Christmas
Alexander I. Weisman

Amid the stress that comes with the holiday season, Pioneer Theatre Company has found a way to remind us why this is the most wonderful time of the year with the holiday musical “It Happened One Christmas,” which premiered this past Friday.

“It Happened One Christmas” is an original production, conceived by PTC artistic director Karen Azenberg and playwright Kenneth Jones, that tells the tale of Christmas magic in an abandoned Salt Lake City theatre which determines whether or not there will be snow on Christmas Day. Apparently, there must be some truth to the legend, as that is exactly what happened this past Christmas, perhaps providing the inspiration for this delightful musical.

Azenberg and company have gone out of their way to present a production that shamelessly promotes everything we love about Christmas.The free flowing musical revue has enough holiday cheer to turn even the most Grinch-like audience member into a rosy-cheeked Kris Kringle. “It Happened One Christmas” is short on narrative but heavy on song and dance in a a near-seamless series of skits showcasing Christmas themes that span generations and remain universally appealing.

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Featuring over 20 Christmas favorites, “It Happened One Christmas” has the audience humming and tapping their feet along with a very energetic and enthusiastic cast. From an ode to the late 1950s with the ever-popular “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” to an incredibly clever hip-hop version of “Joy to the World” performed by a talented children’s cast and everything else in between, there is something for everyone to enjoy. The audience favorite was probably the interactive “12 Days of Christmas” that you have to experience to fully appreciate.

Associate director and choreographer Lenny Daniel, who also stars in the show, does a spectacular job of making this musical what it was meant to be — a holiday spectacle. Each dance number is as diverse as the song being sung and flows as though the music was created for the choreography and not the other way around. The dance number “Linus & Lucy” in particular is a mesmerizing waltz in a winter wonderland that pays homage to the timeless “A Charlie Brown Christmas” while still making the audience feel as though they are experiencing something new.

While the cast of “It Happened One Christmas” is a joy in both song and dance, the true star of the show is the scenic design, created by resident scenic artist George Maxwell, whose stage wizardry creates magical set pieces that capture the very essence of Christmas. The barren stage of an abandoned theatre is quickly transformed into pure Christmas bliss in a blink of an eye. It’s like watching a slideshow of Hallmark’s Christmas cards greatest hits brought to life with a soundtrack of perfectly matched holiday tunes.

It’s clear that Azenberg and Jones set out to create a holiday masterpiece that would appeal to the masses and stay true to our shared memory of Christmas. “It Happened One Christmas” is a near perfect blend of catchy songs, memorable dance numbers and unforgettable set pieces, but the true magic of the evening was a performance that appealed not just to the children in the audience, but to the child in every adult.

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