If you want to know what Christmas spirit is really like, then you must head over to Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury and catch the uplifting holiday musical Christmas Eve at Earlene’s Diner. Created four years ago by the theater’s artistic director, Semina De Laurentis, the show is always a little different than the previous year. This year, there’s so much joy and talent on stage that last Saturday night’s show ended with a spontaneous standing ovation.
Of course, this show is centered on Earlene, played by Michelle Gotay, who is an amazing comedienne. She wears other hats in her everyday life, but on the Seven Angels stage, she reigns supreme as an entertainer with a natural flair for making people laugh. Of course in the play, she is the owner of a diner/motel that gets plenty of action when a blizzard hits the area and television people stranded at the inn produce a show at Earlene’s.
I counted more than 30 performers in the playbill and each one brings a special talent into the spotlight. Some of these fine performers are well known within the community. For instance, Tom Chute of WATR sings a couple of Christmas songs that warm the heart. Timothy Cleary steps into his Santa red suit and keeps everyone smiling as he taps his nose and makes magic happen, while Louis Follo turns Blue Christmas into an Elvis event. John Fabiani is another local favorite who adds a hefty dose of holiday cheer, and if Bill Wilson doesn’t have you laughing out loud, then someone better check your pulse. Joe Stofko is another actor frequently seen on area stages, joining so many other talented individuals who sing, dance, and have fun in this holiday community show.
Cast members range in age from youngsters to oldsters, and have a wide range of talents and abilities. What they all have in common is that they all have a great time and make their joy contagious. TJ Thompson is the music director and he and his musicians provide non-stop music throughout the production. Ralph Cantito is the choreographer who has come up with some very clever moves for prancing reindeer actors.
While Daniel Husvar’s scenic design works well, anyone who saw the last Seven Angels production will recognize the lacy patterns on the wall. Even garland can’t change their obvious presence. Matt Guminski’s lighting design and Matt Martin’s sound design accent the production in all the right places.
There are so many Christmas and holiday songs performed during this show, that your favorite numbers must be among them. For instance, you’ll hear We Need a Little Christmas, My Favorite Things, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, Feliz Navidad, The Christmas Song, White Christmas, Hannukuh Song, and so many other familiar songs of the season. Anyone who is suffering from the absence of snow this month, and attributing it to their lack of holiday spirit needs a dose of Christmas Eve at Earlene’s Diner.
The production runs through Dec. 27. Box office: 203-757-4676
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org