Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Globe’s “Looking For Christmas” A Homage To Our Troops, Family and New Beginnings.

Clint Black’s world premiere “Looking For Christmas” may be booked as a Christmas Show (yes there are lot’s of Christmas scenes and a Christmas play (within the play) and a tree and presents and ugly Christmas sweaters) but if you cut through Black’s music and lyrics, underneath is a soldier’s story itching to get out. It’s a story we hear about, (Just recently three more of our soldiers were killed in Afghanistan) read about and has a new term in our everyday vernacular, PTSD. 

Mike Randolf (a sweet and affable Aaron C. Finley) is a medic stationed in Afghanistan. It’s close to Christmas and Mike and his unit and best friend Douglas Miller (DeLeon Dallas) have heard through the grapevine that they may be going home for Christmas. Waiting for them at home are wives and children with whom they communicate through Face Time on their iPhone’s.

Liana Hunt and Aaron C. Finley
Syndee Winters and DeLeon Dallas
Aaron C. Finley, Liana Hunt, Kaylin Hedges (background)

Mike’s wife Jessie (charming and worried Liana Hunt) and their daughter Ellie (Kaylin Hedges) can’t wait for him to see Ellie in the school’s Christmas Pageant. She’s one of the Wise Men. (“Looking For Christmas” and “Christmas With You”).

Mikes best friend Douglas Miller (DeLeon Dallas, last seen in “Actually”) and his wife Alissa (beautiful Syndee Winter -“Me And The Moon”), exchange love songs and notes. He’s over seas and she is back home somewhere in the U.S but for the moon, that cast its glow over both. The families can hardly wait to have their loved ones  leave the desert outpost and head home. (“Never Knew Love”)

One last patrol and they are home free. You and I know that home free comes with a price. On what was to be their final rounds before heading home, an unexpected explosion took Doug’s life and Mike feels responsible.

DeLeon Dallas and Mike C. Finley
Now at home, he feels Doug’s presence whenever he’s alone and no matter what his family does to cheer him up, and they can’t seem to do enough  he can’t shake the guilt around not having been able to protect his best friend.

Most of the songs in “Christmas” come from Clint Blacks 1995 holiday album (with a few extra for this show) aptly titled “Looking For Christmas”.
Liana Hunt, Kaylin Hedges and Aaron C. Finley
Black, a Country Western star is another on the list of those this reviewer has little knowledge. Like Globe’s artistic director Barry Edelstein, yours truly grew up in the Jewish ghettos of Massachusetts where everyone had a Chanukah Menorah, spun Driedel's and ate Latkes but were never exposed to  Country Music Christmas songs. 

However the musical play with book by James D. Sasser with Clint Black, choreographed by Wendy Seyb, and directed by Kent Nicholson, that barely scratched the surface of a deep story telling, really touched me in a way I thought could never be.

As I watched Finley’s pain settle in to Mike’s persona and the agony he had to live with each day it suddenly reminded me that while we are sitting and enjoying the fruits of Black and company’s labor, thousands of young men and women are struggling with PTSD, many having been sent to war four and five times.  It horrified me.  

Aaron C. Finley and Liana Hunt
Finley and Hunt are a convincing couple with great energy that rests between the two even when grappling with Mike’s adjustment to re-entering family life again. His episodes seeing the ghost best friend Douglas showing up uninvited whenever Mike is alone, and tries to convince him that what happened wasn’t his fault, is the struggle he faces every day. (“Someday”)

Another of his agonizing moments comes when Mike has to face Doug’s wife Alissa. Both handle that meeting as well as can be expected; she is more forgiving that he.

DeLeon Dallas’ Douglas, tall and impressive, lumbers in and out of Mikes mind when least expected. DeLeon is a presence to be admired as he paces himself to be just in the right place at the right time pressing his best friend to go easy on himself and enjoy the festivities. Both he and Winters’, who has a beautiful voice, in a role that needs more room to breathe, are also believable. They too make a perfect match but for a limited time as she will never hold her man again.

Katie Sapper, Liana Hunt, Kaylin Hedges and Bryant Martin as Santa
The gaggle of youngsters (about six or so) in rehearsals for the Pageant almost gives them equal time as they scramble around practicing and just being kids as they sing and dance in Charlotte Devaux costumes under Rui Rita’s lighting on Sean Fanning’s sparse set design.

Black’s Country Western music under the supervision and music direction of Matt Hinkley could be seen live from the pit above the stage. Once again, it sounded just fine to me, albeit repetitive and predictable, as is the story.  

“Looking For Christmas” is a sentimental valentine especially created for the holiday season. Some will refer to it as a Hallmark piece; it’s not so far off. It could also be one of the bookends to “Grinch” as a holiday happening at The Globe for over 20 years. With some tweaking and minus a few musical numbers, it remains to be seen. The show runs about 90 minutes without intermission.

On another note, we in this country have much to be thankful for and wish all our first responders suffering from PTSD for every day that they put themselves on the line for our safety a hearty ‘Thank You’. 
Syndee Winters
“Looking For Christmas” is a good start for a country wracked in pain to have a safe place in which to enjoy a bit of Christmas and witness the power of love.

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through Dec. 31st
Organization: The Old Globe
Phone: 619-234-5623
Production Type: Musical
Where: 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park
Ticket Prices: Start at $39.00
Web: theoldglobe.org
Venue: Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre
Photo: Ken Howard


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