TR Robertson — As I sat in my den with a cup of coffee, watching the morning news on KUSI and working on the review for the musical I saw last night, “Clint Black’s Looking for Christmas”, I suddenly became aware of just how poignant and timely the Clint Black musical is as the KUSI anchor read a news story about another death of an American Marine in Afghanistan, bringing to over 2,000 Americans killed since the war against terrorism began. Black’s musical/play deals with the emotions of a Marine returning from Afghanistan, who has lost his best friend, while they were on patrol, and the way he and his family deal with the PTSD he is going through. It may not sound like a Christmas story, but believe me it is and more.
Photos by Ken Howard
This is the award winning, Hall of Fame, country singers first venture into the theatrical world. The musical is the result of the collaboration of Black and James B. Sasser, on a book inspired by Black’s 1995 chart-topping holiday album, along with the music and lyrics by Black. He wrote several new songs for the musical. The musical is directed by veteran director Kent Nicholson and musical direction and supervision by Broadway veteran Matt Hinkley.
As the musical opens, we meet Ellie Randolf, a precocious 9 year old, played by Kaylin Hedges with tremendous enthusiasm and energy. Ellie is excited about the upcoming Christmas play she is in and the impending arrival of her father returning from the Mid-East. Kaylin is making her Globe debut, most recently performing at The Hollywood Bowl’s production of “Annie”, as Annie. As Ellie sings, “Looking for Christmas”, we meet her father, Mike Randolf, still in Afghanistan, who joins in singing the same song. Mike is played by Broadway veteran Aaron C. Finley. As Ellie’s Father and Jessie’s husband, we see him struggle with the horrible tragedy of war, the loss of a best friend, coming home and “trying to be normal”, and not wanting to disappoint his daughter. Aaron’s vibrant tenor voice is featured on a number of songs, especially moving when he teams with Liana Hunt, who plays his wife, Jessie. Liana is also a Broadway veteran and is perfect as a most understanding mother of the excitable Ellie and equally understanding and tender as Mike’s wife, trying to understand what he is going through and reaching for what she can do to help him.
Without giving too much away, Deleon Dallas, as Mike’s best friend Douglas Miller, will tug at your heart strings as he appears throughout the musical, eventually as a guiding light for Mike. Deleon is making his Globe debut. Playing his wife, and perhaps the most emotional role in the musical, is Syndee Winters as Alissa Miller. Her beautiful voice is featured on the songs, “Me and the Moon” and “Never Knew Love”, and they will move you to tears. Syndee is also a Broadway veteran and a recipient of a Distinguished Alumnus Award from Five Towns College.
The musical features other young actors throughout the musical who never miss a beat. Bobby Chiu plays Billy Watson, Giovanni Cozic plays Jimmy McElroy, Veda Cienfuegos plays Joanie Watson and Reese McCulloch plays Melissa Peters. Several of these young performers are Globe veterans having performed in different productions of “Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas”.
Rounding out the cast is Reanne Acasio, Scott Richard Foster, Bryant Martin, Lauren Livia Muehl, Jonathan Sangster, Katie Sapper, and Lauren Ellen Thompson. Bryant Martin, as the department store Santa, has one of the most significant lines in the musical, when he tries to help Ellie understand what is going on with her father and how she can help. Santa turns to Ellie and says “The miracle of love is what Christmas is all about”.
This musical, coming out at the right time of year, is about relationships, community coming together, friendship, caring and loving those closest to you and using that love to help others. This is shown thru the eyes of a child and the heart and souls of the adults around her.
The musical features 15 songs written by Clint Black. I remember hearing “Milk and Cookies”, sung by Black in the “Montana Skies” Christmas special Black did with John Denver. Ellie sings part of the song as she falls asleep waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve. All of the music is directed by Matt Hinkley and performed by his 6 piece orchestra.
Director Nicholson’s Creative Team consisted of Wendy Seyb – choreography, Sean Fanning – scenic design, Charlotte Devaux – costume design, Rui Rita – lighting design, Leon Rothenberg – sound design, Jason Styres – casting and Anjee Nero – production stage manager.
This heartwarming musical will continue through December 31st at the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center. Ticket prices start at $39 and can be purchased at 619-234-5623 or go to www.TheOldGlobe.org.