The Sacramento Choral Calendar
Holiday Celebration - December 17, 2012
by Dick Frantzreb
Although I’ve attended several shows of this amazing performing troupe, this was the first I’ve seen of High Voltage’s holiday shows. Honestly, it’s hard to find new superlatives to describe these productions. Yet the range of talent and personality amazes me with every performance. These young people are the focus of attention – and deservedly so – but they are backed by top professionals, starting with Director/Choreographer, Debbie Wilson, and Vocal Director, Jennifer Wittmayer, and going through an incredible organization of producers, costumers, tech crew members, etc. It operates like a well-oiled machine, backed by an army of parents and other family members. All working together, they produce magic on the stage time after time.
This present performance filled Three Stages, though I couldn’t tell whether it was an actual sell-out. Certainly it should have been – in fact, they should have sold out at least several shows in that large theater because it was a delightful holiday production. What I saw of it, that is. I arrived 20 minutes after the start and was tormented that I might have missed acts that were as wonderful as those I finally was able to witness.
There were 28 acts in all (click here to open the program in a new window), and though I couldn’t record my thoughts on them in the dark of the theater, so many remain vividly in my memory. This part of the Sacramento Choral Calendar is a record of choral performances, and there were many numbers that involved ensemble singing. I’ll say that these young performers, good as they are, don’t produce the ensemble sound of the formal choruses I’ve been reviewing, but they are so entertaining that refined choral sound just doesn’t matter. Every number dazzles with new costumes and some type of choreography. And they are constantly projecting personality – acting – and that, in the final analysis, is what sells the song they are singing. You look at them up there and have to believe they love what they’re doing: how can we in the audience not love it, too?
Some of the mostly choral pieces that I found the most delightful were their rendition of (1) “Rudolf, The Red-Nosed Reindeer” in which everyone was sporting antlers and acting out the words with gestures, or (2) “Yule Log” with its clever double-entendre lyrics (“Throw the Yule log on Uncle John”), or (3) “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” with the young men coming out one-by-one in military uniforms with the backdrop of a giant American flag, or (4) the wonderfully chaotic “Christmas Can-Can.”
As always, the dancing was, for me, one of the most impressive parts of the show, not just for the talents of the dancers – which were considerable – but for the brilliantly creative choreography. It seems like I’m always seeing moves and ideas behind the choreography that I’ve never seen before. For example, the “Rockettes” number presented the kick line in a creative way and was an audience pleaser last night, as were the segments of the show that involved elegant ballroom dancing. But the dance number that I can’t get out of my mind was the one that ended the first half of the program, which they titled “Tap Battle.” I believe the music was Mannheim Steamroller’s intense arrangement of “Carol of the Bells,” and the tap dancing was extraordinary: it seemed almost menacing, like the dancers were trying to intimidate each other. OK, that doesn’t sound like the Christmas spirit, but that’s my memory of it, and it was just stunning.
There were plenty of other numbers that were more representative of holiday spirit, including some outstanding solos and duets: “The Prayer,” “Where Are You Christmas?” “Grown Up Christmas List,” and one that displayed what was for me a new talent by Andrew Wilson (piano playing) “'Zat You, Santa Claus?”
At the conclusion of the finale, “God Bless Us Everyone,” the whole audience rose quickly to their feet with applause. Everyone had indeed been blessed with 2 hours of humor, talent, creativity, good feeling, grace – and heart. I can’t think of a better combination of elements for a holiday show – can you?