By Chuck Graham, TucsonStage.com
Clockwise around Santa (Jesus Limon) are Brian Paradis, Samantha Cormier, Brittany Mazur and Jeremy Vega.
The Gaslight Music Hall's expanded olio format is taking on more of its own identity with the second of these olio-type productions at the new northwest side venue.
“Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree” is written, directed and choreographed by Katherine Byrnes.
She has strung together 28 joyfully secular songs of the season, performed by a sunny quintet of singers backed by a bouncy band called the Reindeer Rockers, led by Hurricane Carla Brownlee.
Christmas at the Gaslight is all about celebrating those holiday songs that last forever. The more years we've heard each one of them, the more memories they hold.
The singers are Brittany Mazur, Samantha Cormier, Brian Paradis, Jeremy Vega and Jesus Limon. Paradis does double duty as the Master of Ceremonies.
Developing into a nice Gaslight tradition is the pause half-way through the first act to invite all the children in the audience to come up on stage to do a little performing themselves. A group sing-along is the order of the day, and so is an on-stage photo opportunity.
This being the yuletide time and all, every child receives a bright red Rudolph nose to wear. Parents are encouraged to whip out their smartphone cameras to snap away while the whole gang sings “Jingle Bell Rock.”
At both Gaslight venues there is one iconic figure nearly as important as Santa himself. Of course, that is Elvis. His spirit appears on this stage in a white jump suit sort of affair to sing both “White Christmas' and “Blue Christmas.”
Not to be forgotten is the “Hee-Haw” side of humor represented by an Appalachian section led by Homer and Jethro. Bib overalls and dresses made from cotton feed sack cloth patterns were the fashion.
Limon also got his own spotlight moment and a big festival sombrero to sing “Feliz Navidad.”
A nice touch using the theater's rear-screen projection showed black-and-while photos of World War II era soldiers celebrating Christmas as best they could in a foreign land, set to the song “I'll Be Home For Christmas.”
It is a point of pride in these olio shows also to include some corny jokes – or as they are more professionally known, “one-liners.”
For example, “What do elves do when they get home from school?” “Gnome-work.”
Or, how about this. “What is the difference between a knight and one of Santa's reindeer?”
“The knight can be slayin' a dragon while the reindeer can be draggin' a sleigh.”
“Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree” continues through Dec. 23, with performances at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays; 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Fridays; noon and 3 p.m. Sundays at the Gaslight Music Hall, 13005 N. Oracle Road.
Tickets are $19.95 adults; $17.95 students, seniors and military; $9.95 for children age 2-12. For details and reservations, 520-529-1000, or thegaslightmusichall.com