While restoring and making renovations on the previously shuttered Spinning Wheel Restaurant in Redding before its reopening in February 2014, the most frequently asked question the new owners heard after “When are you going to open?” was “Are you bringing back the Christmas show?”
“We didn’t know,” said Steven Rountos, who with his brothers Anthony and Christopher are the restaurant’s owners. “We were most concerned with getting up and running last year.” For 2015, however, the answer is Yes, but in a different format. Rather than a traditional holiday story, Magic of Christmas is a more contemporary cabaret-style musical revue — and includes a few magic tricks — designed to appeal to a multi-generational audience. The show, with a cast of four, is being presented Wednesday and Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons through Dec. 23.
Magic of Christmas is directed by Redding resident Don Bovingloh, who has had a 40-year career in show business ranging from writer, theater director and acting coach to performer and television producer. Among his credits, he was one of the original performing members at the Groundlings Improv Theatre in Hollywood. He currently conducts acting workshops and directing when asked — at the Wilton Playshop he directed The Drowsy Chaperone a couple of years ago and the premiere of Diana Canova’s And I Always Will… last spring — and teaches and directs shows at the Wooster School in Danbury.
“I got to know the Rountos brothers as a customer after the restaurant reopened,” Bovingloh said. “They are terrific people. When they learned of my background, we started bouncing ideas around for reviving the show. I agreed to write and direct it and Steven is the executive producer. We wanted to create something the whole family can enjoy, and decided to simplify it to focus on the songs, which will include familiar and lesser-known traditional songs, a medley of classics, pop elements with a couple of Celine Dion songs, and novelty numbers like Santa Baby and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in Yiddish. There is also a tribute to the New Year — goodbye to the old, hello to the new.
“The fast-paced revue features incredible singer-actors I’ve worked with — Alexis Willoughby, Chloe Delaitre, Tyler Mell and Cary Brown, who is also the musical director — in tuxs and cocktail dresses with costume pieces, hats, vests, etc. to telegraph what is needed,” he continued. “And I am doing a few magic tricks, bringing children or willing adults from audience to assist me.”
The 45-minute show follows a four-course prix-fixe dinner, with a choice of five entrees, and be presented in the larger part of the L-shaped, dividable banquet room.
“We are set up to seat about 75 people per performance, all with an unobstructed view,” said Steven Rountos, noting that the full banquet room can accommodate up to 160 for a party or reception. If a function wants the restaurant as well as the banquet room, up to 280 people can be accommodated.
Prices for dinner and the show (drinks are ala carte) are $77 on Friday, $67 Wednesday and Sunday for adults, and $57 and $49, respectively, for children under 12 (children’s menu).
The Spinning Wheel is at 109 Black Rock Turnpike (Route 58 near Joel Barlow High School), Redding. For additional information and reservations, visit swredding.com or call 203-493-6339.
Some Spinning Wheel history
The original salt-box structure dates back to 1742, with four rooms built around a great stone hearth. After a fire destroyed parts of the main house in 1948, the building was authentically rebuilt using reclaimed timbers from several old barns. It was closed for about three years before being purchased by the Rountoses. The brothers were well-versed in the banquet business: their parents owned the Amber Room Colonnade in Danbury for 25 years and they all worked there in various capacities through the years.
Steven said that Christopher is an architect and The Spinning Wheel was restored to reflect its original rustic charm and beauty and brought into ADA compliance. Realizing the noise level was louder than expected after opening, they added sound absorbing panels to the angled walls and ceiling, creating a much quieter ambiance. While Steven and Christopher work “up front,” Anthony is in charge of the kitchen. The emphasis is on upscale casual food.
“The Spinning Wheel has lots of history and charm,” said Steven, “and we like to say we are 20 minutes from everywhere. We want people to have a good time, to offer great food in a great environment with great service. We have been pleased with the reception from the public, and with this year’s Christmas show are happy to bring back another aspect the restaurant that people have long enjoyed.”