Though the weather was indeed frightful, the annual Oklahoma City Philharmonic Pops' “The Christmas Show” was absolutely delightful.
The event took place Dec. 5, 6, and 7 with obstacles of icy roads, blowing snow, freezing cold and two groups of protesters for an unrelated production, but the Philharmonic unwrapped plenty of joy. Broadway stars George Dvorsky (“The Fantasticks,” “The Scarlet Pimpernel”) and Gwendolyn Jones (“Hair,” “42nd Street,” “Annie”) were the headliners for an evening of holiday fun and cheer. The Philharmonic Pops Chorale lent strong and beautifully arranged voices to the program, while also providing characters for the many holiday tableaus presented during the evening. These performers were augmented by the Mistletoes, a group of practiced and elegant dancers who energized the stage with artfully choreographed elements.
Dvorsky, who has a strong baritone with a hint of whiskey rasp — when he chooses to use it — sang the rarely heard verse to “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and performed other classic pieces. His moving rendition of “I'll Be Home for Christmas” was visually enhanced by a ballet performed by dancers Savannah Hawkins and Brandon Block.
Jones, a brilliantly comic actress and singer, rendered a holiday treatment of “Big Spender” (from “Sweet Charity”) with a bar line of elves providing support. She also performed the hysterical “Twelve Days After Christmas” — what do you think happens to a relationship filled with swans a-swimming and geese a-laying? Jones clarified the inevitable breakup delightfully.
Jones and Dvorsky teamed for the argument about an “Old Fashioned Christmas,” weighing the merits of a cozy family gathering and a large party. They also performed a number of character roles with the OKC Philharmonic Pops Chorale and the Mistletoes.
The Philharmonic, with its customary clarity and grace, played Bizet's “Farandole” from L'Arlesienne suite No. 2, arranged after Bizet's death by Guiraud. Called “the march of the kings,” this recognizable piece gave the orchestra at least a moment to stand on its own and receive the appreciation it deserved.
Santa dropped in with a couple of elves and sang “Abundance and Charity” from the musical version of “A Christmas Carol.”
The sets by designer Amanda Foust and lighting by Kendall Smith are worth special mentions. The entire staging process sparkled with color and light.
The evening ended with Jones, Dvorsky, the chorale and the Mistletoes performing traditional carols. “O Tannenbaum” and “Silent Night” were lovely and inspiring. “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” a difficult piece to sell at the end of a concert, was well sung, as were the two final carols, although the staging and presentation was a little pedestrian compared to the rest of the evening. The farewell and the encore, however, were worth staying for — the sparkle returned full force.
It was a joyful and cheering evening, with free hot cider provided before the show. Plan to attend next year — it's worth the sleigh ride in the snow to see and hear.
— Anna Holloway