It's often said that people don't see the forest for the trees. Applying that logic to a musical or theatrical presentation would suggest that while isolated numbers might land squarely or turn into showstoppers, the production's arc may not provide the evening with much needed continuity.
Happily, that description doesn't hold up when describing the Oklahoma City Philharmonic's “Christmas Show.” This year's offering dazzles the senses thanks to Amanda Foust's expert scenic design, Chris Dallos' evocative lighting, Jeffrey Meek's gorgeous costumes and Vince Leseney's meticulously prepared chorus.
The other key players in this eclectic celebration of the Christmas season are Joel Levine, the accomplished music director who draws some of the most beautiful sounds imaginable from the orchestra; Lyn Cramer, the show's director/choreographer who paints vivid and memorable pictures with her talented cast; and featured soloist Michele Ragusa, a Broadway veteran who can adapt her voice to the most wide-ranging array of musical styles.
The production is filled with surprises, from the choral/orchestral opening “O Come, All Ye Faithful” that captivates the ear with its innovative orchestration, to Ragusa's “All Those Christmas Cliches,” a charming list song that mentions “turkey with all the fixings, streets bathed in twinkling lights and lakes filled with perfect skaters.”
Cory Lingner and Jacob Chancellor turn the “Symphony in Riffs” into a delightful tap dancing display, with each trying to outdo the other and fighting over who got the final bow. Addison Baker, 11, was spot on in “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” and received expert support from Campbell Walker Fields, Sam Brown and the children's ensemble.
Leseney's knack for outfitting a familiar melody with new lyrics turned “It's the Hard Knock Life” into a disarmingly humorous rant from Santa's elves about the drudgery they face at the North Pole. “We are just an angry mob, we should get another job,” they grumbled.
Ragusa demonstrated she knows her way around a comedy number with “Santa, Keep Those Reindeer Quiet,” another Leseney standout in which Mrs. Claus shares her frustration with “Nicky” and his 32-hoof riot.