Gateway Theatre

A Broadway Holiday by Christopher King and Barbara Tomasic

When and Where December 16 - 23, 2021 | MainStage at Gateway Theatre, 6500 Gilbert Road, Richmond

Director Barbara Tomasic Music Director Jenny Anderson Arranger Chrisopher King Production Design Sophie Tang Sound Design Darren John Costume Design Melicia Zaini Stage Manager Susan Miyagishima

Cast Jenny Anderson, Caitriona Murphy, Gabrielle Rutman, Devon Busswood, Sean Hara, Alexander Nicoll

Reviewer John Jane

Gateway Theatre finally opened their doors this week for A Broadway Holiday, their first live stage production since Straight White Men in February 2020. If it feels like those doors were not swung open wide to theatre-goers on opening night, it’s because there still remains throes of hesitancy by Richmond Gateway Theatre Society. With limited capacity, strategic seating, mingle-free foyer and even a closed concession booth, it all seemed like a surreal festive opening night.

Nothing surreal about A Broadway Holiday; although, a more low-key production than previous Gateway Theatre Holiday fare, it was nonetheless entertaining. Seven talented musicians in an ensemble concert style performance covered many of the songs we hear on popular FM radio at this time of year plus a few that boast a narrow connection with Christmas. “Be Our Guest” (Beauty and the Beast), What Baking Can Do” (Waitress) and The Sound of Music medley seemed to be outside the show’s central Holiday theme - even if, the latter did present an opportunity for audience participation.

While the songs would be all too familiar, some of Christopher King’s arrangements may come across as a little unusual. “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” sung by Caitriona Murphy, Gabrielle Rutman and Devon Busswood in a bluesy minor key, for me, was more enjoyable than the over-the-top Bruce Springsteen version. Irving Berlin’s “Snow” from White Christmas, featuring Jenny Anderson on piano and Caitriona Murphy on Bodhran gets a new lease on life. Bass player Alexander Nicoll’s punk rendition of “I’ve Got my Love to keep me warm” however, was less pleasant.

Most of the songs were performed as an ensemble, yet it was two female solos that provided highlights: Jenny Anderson’s interpretation of Jason Robert Brown composition “Christmas Lullaby” was quietly affecting and Caitriona Murphy made “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” her own.

What the opening night audience may have lacked numbers, but they certainly matched the performers in enthusiasm, giving grateful applause after every tune. In view of recentpublic health warnings, Richmond Gateway Theatre Society were wise to be cautious, but let us hope that there is more to come at Gateway Theatre in the new year.

© 2021 John Jane