by Lila Achuff

The cast of A CHRISTMAS WONDERLAND, Ocean City Theatre Company's holiday touring spectacular.

Isn’t it great at this time of year that there are so many happenings close to home where families have opportunities to be entertained and not have to bust the piggy bank to enjoy time together and have a chance to bond with one another?  Let me thank Michael Hartman for providing such an evening with his “high-energy” annual “holiday spectacular”, A CHRISTMAS WONDERLAND. 

Michael Hartman, Artistic Director of the traveling Ocean City Theatre Company (OCTC) in Ocean City, NJ, is a graduate of West Chester University (my Alma Mater), Drama Director at East Bradford Elementary School (West Chester, PA) and Director/Choreographer at Owen J. Roberts High School (Pottstown, PA).  As Director/Choreographer of this fast-paced dynamic musical production, Michael has collected an enthusiastic group of youthful dynamos who sang, danced and kept the antsy kids around us fully engaged in their performance.  And BTW, that’s really important.  It’s not about us adults expecting a genuine full-blown Broadway production.  Perhaps we go because maybe, just maybe, our kid(s) might be inspired by any one, or more, of the following actors sharing with us their joy of, and enthusiasm for, performing:  Kaitlin Becker, Kristine Bennett, Melissa Castillo, Beth Koperwhats, Billy Kametz, Corey Matos, Patrick McLaughlin.  (In case any of these entertainers become famous, we can say we heard it here.)

Guys, you were all adorable, delightful and full of “vim and vigor”.  I love it! But, Mike, my gushing ends here.  After all, you want my honest, and from my heart, review.  Overall, the cast could benefit from more experience and lessons, whatever, in singing, harmonizing and dancing.  Also, each cast member has a special something that makes him or her different from the rest.  Find that something in each one and draw it out from the beginning so that by the end of the show, we audience members recognize each for his/her own individuality.  It’s in their facial expressions, their body movement(s), their very beings.  (Think 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee).  It started to come alive for me somewhere around “March of the Toy Soldiers”.  Even though they needed to perform in unison, their different facial expressions started popping out.  So cute!  Their differences and a more comfortable level of performing were evident in the country western rock song.  I was up for joining in!  I want to see more of THAT!  I want to be wowed from beginning to end. 

Of course, there are times to be serious and contemplative.  Unfortunately, often the music overpowered much of their soulful singing.  It didn’t help that the stage was huger than huge!  Just because there’s a big stage doesn’t mean it all has to be utilized.  Much of it could be taken up with scenery.  Time for brainstorming!  Get that creativity a-poppin’!  Furthermore, that stage was large enough for twice as many characters, if not more.  Bring them closer together.  Strength in … no, wrong thought.  If I’m going to sing and dance with someone, I’d prefer we be 5 feet apart over 50!  I’m probably exaggerating but you get the picture.  

So sweet that there was a Kids Cast made up of the following:  Julia Fumo, Morgan McLees, Stella Schwartz and, last but not least, Maggie Wallace.  Like I said before, in case one or more of you become famous some day, we heard it here first!  OK, Mike, we now have four cutie patooties (sp?) on the state of Alaska.  Whatcha gonna do?  Right, you’re going to clump ‘em up because they become louder and stronger when they’re closer together.  Girls, was that not just so exciting to be up there singing and dancing?  Good job!!  You made your families and friends proud!  And me, too!

Although it was a one-night only performance, there are more coming up in the New Jersey area.  Go to OCTheatreCo@yahoo,com for dates, locations and box office info.  Personally, I’d like to see another performance in the future so that I can see the progress you all have made. 

It was very special for me to hear one of my favs at the end of the show –

Let There Be Peace on Earth …

Until the next show …

Directed by Michael Hartman
December 10 , 2010
Ocean City Theatre Company (on tour)�
Owen J. Roberts Auditorium
901 Ridge Road
Pottstown, PA 19464

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