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PTC’s ‘Christmas in Connecticut’: A Cozy Classic Reimagined

This stocking is stuffed to the brim with quick retorts, holiday tension and more dramatic irony than you can throw a snowball at.
Alyse+Alan+Louis+in+Christmas+in+Connecticut.+%28Courtesy+of+Pioneer+Theatre%29
Alyse Alan Louis in “Christmas in Connecticut.” (Courtesy of Pioneer Theatre)

 

In true poetic fashion, Salt Lake’s first real snow of the year falls gently on the opening night of PTC’s “Christmas in Connecticut.” All boot prints lead to the warm and bouncy piano carols of the Pioneer Theatre lobby. Patrons shake off large fluffy snowflakes as they settle in for a favorite holiday tradition.

“Christmas in Connecticut” is a new holiday musical based on the 1945 film of the same name. Both stories follow columnist Liz Sandor (Alyse Alan Louis) who dishes out perfect housekeeping, cooking and childrearing tips from her idyllic farmhouse in Connecticut.

Only, this entire life is complete poppycock. Sandor has never been married, or even boiled an egg. This façade, created by Sandor and editor Dudley Beecham (RJ Vaillancourt), is forced into reality when publisher Mr. Yardley (Gerry McIntyre) invites war hero, and the column’s biggest fan, Jefferson Jones (Christian Magby) to spend Christmas with Sandor in Connecticut.

A Hearth from Swirling Blizzards

This stocking is stuffed to the brim with quick retorts, holiday tension and more dramatic irony than you can throw a snowball at. It’s a predictable, cozy and comfortable Hallmark-style Christmas card with little to say. However, what it says, it does so with a perfectly tied red and green ribbon.

As is standard with Pioneer Theatre productions, the real star of the show, is the immaculate set design. While the show really only has three settings — Sandor’s apartment, the streets of New York and Beecham’s Connecticut farmhouse — each is gorgeously crafted.

Lex Liang’s scenic and costume design is truly something out of a storybook as buildings tower over a stormy 1940s New York. The Connecticut Cottage feels warm and lived in, a true hearth from the blizzards swirling through the window. Frosty tree tops blend with nostalgic bundles of jackets and mittens. The world crafted is one where falling in love is easy. The sets and costumes go miles in helping the performances come to life.

“Christmas in Connecticut” company.
(Courtesy of the Pioneer Theatre)

Heavy Snow, Light Commentary

The play’s book, written by Patrick Pacheco and Erik Forrest Jackson, is light and incredibly nostalgic for the time it is based in. An abundance of original songs by Jason Howland and Amanda Yesnowitz do little to enhance character. They mostly serve to bury the lack of story. The tale often brought up comments about feminism, unions and sexual equality but does extremely little to explore them with any depth.

We see a feminist spark with Sandor, who multiple times invokes the name of Eleanor Roosevelt. However, the play uses this more as a namedrop than an actual commentary. We see union sympathizer Victor Beecham (Eric William Morris) briefly state, “Unions are going to save this country!” Yet, we don’t see much more than simple finger-wagging. Dudley Beecham’s character is queer, however, “Christmas in Connecticut” opts to refer to him as “someone who wears cravats” and seems absolutely petrified to even say the word “gay.”

So often, “Christmas in Connecticut” tiptoes up to the line of having something important to say. Too often, unfortunately, it cowers behind blanket statements of  “don’t hate” instead of exploring the systems that cultivate such sentiments.

Easy and Predictable

This all being said, there really isn’t anything wrong with light and easy commentary. Christmas is supposed to be easy and predictable. It’s all about finding the warmest and brightest feelings amidst the coldest and darkest nights.

This surface-level reminder to be kinder and more understanding has its place. Liz Sandor’s story teaches us to self-evaluate and really decide who we want to be. Still, I can’t help but feel that an opportunity is missed with its commentary. Christmas, because it is a wondrous time, is preyed upon by unhealthy traditionalist mentalities about where we should be and where we aren’t.

“Christmas in Connecticut” has the chance to use the holiday as a backdrop to explore the incumbent feminism in the 1940s. It instead chooses to air on the side of frivolity, never actually speaking proudly about the things it claims to preach. A kind and sweet frivolity, but a frivolity nonetheless.

As the royal red curtains closed the Connecticut Farmhouse, audience members smiled kindly and applauded. The show has plenty of laughs, fun choreography and sweet moments to keep those of all ages engaged. You may not leave this snow globe of a show edified and changed, but you will certainly smile at how pretty it looks.

“Christmas in Connecticut” runs through Dec. 16.

 

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About the Contributor
Luke Jackson is an arts writer for the Daily Utah Chronicle. He is currently pursuing a B.S. in games with a minor in creative writing. Since childhood, Luke has had a strong affinity for film and the arts. You’ll probably find him catching the latest movie or hanging out with his dog (and best friend) Theia. After graduation from his undergraduate studies, Luke hopes to pursue a career in video games or screenwriting.

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