This year for Christmas, Lansing Civic Players gives us “Firehouse Follies presents: Holiday Extravaganza,” a holiday-themed send-up of 1950s sitcoms, ala “The Dick Van Dyke Show” or “Leave it to Beaver.”
Co-written and directed by Rob Roznowski and Tony Sump, the show opens with Felice and Navi Dodd (get it?), hosting a holiday party where nothing is going right. While Mr. Dodd's tree won't light up, his best friend Chris Moss (get it?) has just been asked to play Santa at the last minute, and he's none too pleased. The attractive, sex-starved Marion Bright (GET IT?) sets her sights on Chris the minute she lays eyes on his jolly red suit. To make matters worse, the piano player drinks excessively and someone has been forgotten at the airport. Add some hyperactive children, an extremely politically correct couple, a nosy-yet-friendly neighbor and some holiday classics, and this has the potential to be one very amusing musical comedy.
Unfortunately, it never comes together that way. It’s a shame, because the script is really quite witty. Anyone who grew up watching 1950s or ‘60s sitcoms would enjoy the happy snappy dialogue, when they can hear it. But the projection and diction of most of the cast is atrocious. Almost every other line is dropped or stumbled upon and several cues are missed.
The songs interspersed throughout the show are old Christmas stand-bys —“Santa, Baby,” “Cold Outside,” “Happy Holidays” — tunes that should be fun just for their familiarity. But they are so poorly done, one can’t help cringing when it is time for another song. The only exception is the high-energy "Hippo 4 Xmas," a duet by Keith Wing and Misty D. Gailey that shows off Wing’s powerful voice.
No one develops any real chemistry or connection on stage, and even though this is a stylized comedy, none of the characters are very believable. No matter how corny or outlandish “I Love Lucy” was, the relationship between Ricky and Lucy felt very real and honest.
The best part thing about this show are the pre-recorded, black and white "holiday commercials" presented by MI-Entertainment’s Jim Fordyce, which are quite amusing. Also, Bruce Bennett, who plays the nosy neighbor, is very funny in a running gag throughout the show. He should be on stage more, because even though he has very few lines, he develops a character the audience could care about.
All in all, this show makes for a very disappointing evening. At an hour and a half, it feels like eons pass before the curtain finally came down. Perhaps this show is just a fluke for the usually successful Roznowski and Sump, or maybe the cast just had so much fun together they forgot to put on a good show. Whatever the case may be, this “Extravaganza” is not recommended.
‘Firehouse Follies presents: Holiday Extravaganza’
Lansing Civic Players
Through Dec. 14
8 p.m. Friday & Saturday
2 p.m. Sunday
Hannah Community Center
819 Abbot Road, East Lansing