A Holiday Spin | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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A Holiday Spin

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A HOLIDAY SPIN, Bailiwick Repertory. An aggressively jolly Yuletide celebration, this 75-minute off-night potpourri of seasonal songs and stories, conceived and written by Jonathan Abarbanel and director/choreographer Scott Ferguson, cleverly controls the spontaneity built into it: audience members whirl a roulette wheel decorated with a wreath to determine what happens on any given night. The pointer's position tells the energetic four-member ensemble to perform a song or story, or an audience member to share a holiday memory or receive a surprise (an Etch-A-Sketch, bingo game, or cookies left over from before the show). One eager spectator got to play Santa Claus and distribute plastic toys to the happy crowd. (A Christmas miracle, the costume fit perfectly!)

Warmly performed in a close harmonic blend by Michael Camp, Sara Davis, Dan Ferretti, and Anne Tolpegin (with musical direction by Gene DeLuca), the 20 songs range from a Mozart motet to a lovely Hanukkah ballad to curiosities like the bittersweet blues "I Guess There Ain't No Santa Claus" and a wry tribute to the traditionally inedible fruitcake. (Except for a sing-along, A Holiday Spin steers clear of the carols we hear quite often enough.)

The stories spun the night I was there were a cutesy rendition from Dylan Thomas's exquisite A Child's Christmas in Wales and Moss Hart's memory of a father's late-arriving love, tenderly told by Camp as if it came from his own family album. Though the wheel turns up songs too often for variety's sake, the quartet keeps the charm flowing and the spirits high. A grinch would find it cloying, but if you're not one...

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Roger Lewin--Jennifer Girard Studio.

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