Saturday, November 20, 2004

Holiday Dreams (Carousel Dinner Theatre)


This is the time of year when theatres seek ways to use the holiday season to entertain audiences. Some decide to take the serious route and present the likes of ‘A CHRISTMAS CAROL’ (Great Lakes Theatre Festival) while others go the ‘PLAID TIDINGS’ route (The Cleveland Play House). Still others decide that they should present a series of acts, surrounded by holiday sounds and songs. The later decision was made by the producers of the Carousel Dinner Theatre in Akron.

To accomplish their goal the theatre’s producers decided, according to one of their public relations team, to turn to Las Vegas, the home of the very best in review-type entertainment. Their mission was to provide stellar specialty acts and embed these into a holiday sing-and-dance-along. Therefore, ‘HOLIDAY DREAMS, AN INTERNATIONAL HOLIDAY SHOW,’ was created especially for Carousel by Q Productions Las Vegas.

On the positive side, Q Productions did find some excellent specialty acts. Romano Frediani is an eighth generation juggler. Handsome, charming and talented the young man mesmerized the audience with his juggling golden boxes and playing the drums with balls while juggling the spheres. He convulsed the audience by making himself the cog-pin in a “ring the juggler” routine in which members of the audience were asked to frisbee-toss silver rings over Frediani’s head. He put life and limb at stake as he dove, slid and cartwheeled across the stage to get neck-cuffed by the errant throws. The more the tossers missed, the more hysterical the proceedings became.

Danny D’Oscar, a mass of muscles, received much applause for his balancing and flying routines. The Cuban defector used apparatus in the first act to perform balancing acts of super strength. His second act actions consisted of an impressive display of flying and swinging high above the heads of the audience while twisting and turning on long red sheets of material.

The Los Huincas Gauchos, a trio of Argentineans, has been awarded the title, “Best Specialty Act in Las Vegas.” Their drum routines and synchronized dances with the use of dangerous weapons, delighted. Even their use of audience members, which in other venues is often both awkward and embarrassing, was entertaining.

Unfortunately, the rest of the show varied from amateurish to just plain awful. This was best exemplified when about half way through the show a cast member asked the audience, “Are you having a good time?” and was answered by a very weak number of positive responses. Even when he kidded the audience about their lack of enthusiastic response, they didn’t perk up much.

Michael Chambers’ choreography was generally uninventive and often poorly executed. The supposed “Las Vegas’s best” performers proved adequate at best. Statuesque Betsy Allen, who has headlined shows for the Luxor and the Las Vegas Hilton hotels has a pleasant voice. Jeff Hutson, the other featured singer, was inconsistent in his renditions and displayed little stage presence. Both the male and female dancing and singing choruses showed little depth of talent. Their vocal blends were often off and their dance timings left much to be desired. There are many local talents who far exceed these supposed pros. The “original music” was repetitious and lacked creativity. How much variety can there be in hearing the same rock and roll beat applied over and over to versions of Christmas carols?.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: The featured acts of Carousel Dinner Theatre’s ‘HOLIDAY DREAMS’ are excellent and highly entertaining. If you can put up with the dancing and singing, and place all your attention on Romano Frediani, Danny D’Oscar and Los Huincas Gauchos, you’ll have a fine time.