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Oregon Ballet Theatre

Holiday Revue

by Dean Speer

December 10, 2011 -- Keller Auditorium, Portland, OR

Good cheer, cabaret revue-style was busting out all over that same evening with OBT’s second edition of popular fare, its "Holiday Revue." Essentially light with the occasional hint of melancholy and of the sweetly romantic and nostalgic, the creative team that put this baby together hit gold, which is a musical and dance tribute to over 100 years of popular Christmas and holiday tunes, including some surprises and one parody for the occasion – “The Eight Days of Hanukkah.” [Oy!]

As the saying goes, a fountain can rise no higher than its source, and when you set the level of music high, the rest tends to rise to it. This is one of the few cases where the dance would not work as well at all or really exist without this base platform. One of the things that carries the show, is the singer Susannah Mars, who in addition to being a great vocalist, is also a great stylist, able to move quickly from period to period and type of song – from the lyric and ballad-like to the syncopated, snappy and patter song mockery of the "Lime Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise."

Divided into several thematic sections, such as "Parties and Celebrations" and "Elegance and Romance," it moves along like a tour bus – enough time to enjoy the sights, take some pictures, soak in the sun and atmosphere but not having to worry about logistics or asking directions.

In "Families," they projected onto the backdrop charming photos of every single company member from their respective childhoods – some in holiday costume, some just being extra special cute. This year, OBT solicited similar fare from subscribers and I was honored that one of me on Santa’s lap, when I was only four was used, as was one of Francis Timlin, our dear friend and colleague Erika DeLap and myself all on Santa’s knee taken quite spontaneously many years ago. Erika was most surprised and delighted, giving me “the elbow” to my ribs when this image came up.

Javier Ubell is featured throughout, and is particularly shown off well in "Far From the Home I Love," an introspective solo that taps into his considerable bravura technique and allows him to show emotion effectively.

Choreographer Christopher Stowell really found his stride here and is to be commended for adding such a charming audience- and family-friendly work to OBT’s repertory. He keeps adding ballets that attract and retain interest...and ones which I’m pleased and not the least embarrassed to take my 92-year old father to enjoy – which is saying a lot.

Predominantly an ensemble work, "Holiday Revue" is over too soon, making us wish for more and looking forward to our own, private, holiday reviews.

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