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Connecticut Theater

"Old Friends--Christmas 2008"
The Spinning Wheel Inn, Redding

What better way to usher in the holiday season than an evening at The Spinning Wheel Inn! The historic old inn on Redding Ridge, dating back to 1742, still offers a roaring fire, old wooden beams, a solid New England dinner, and upbeat entertainment.

It is between courses--between soup and salad and soufflé--that five singers hold forth. The gifted husband/wife team of Karen and Peter Randazzo has put together their annual Christmas show--written and directed by Karen, with Peter contributing music and lyrics.

The Randazzo stories and music vary from year to year, and this year’s pleasant little tale is replete with original and traditional Noel tunes. Such beloved songs as “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” and “White Christmas” blend smoothly with Randozzo’s own compositions—“Let’s Get Christmasfied” among them. Randazzo skillfully interweaves past and present. It is, not surprisingly, a story with a happy ending. The Randazzos and The Spinning Wheel would not have it any other way.

A daughter comes home for Christmas, planning to surprise and comfort her recently-divorced mother, but makes an unpleasant discovery. Her mother has a new boy friend! Bad news for daughter Meg, who views the new man with suspicion. But the next door neighbors, old friends, manage to defuse the crackling hostility. Soon every one is reconciled and prepared to live happily ever after (at least through the holiday season). Mother, daughter, boy friend, good neighbors, all sing their hearts out. And the audience, nibbling away at their crème brulees, are soon filled with the holiday spirit themselves. In closing moments, actors warmly greet each diner, creating one happy family.

The Randazzos use three rotating teams of performers, and on press night, the cast included Peter Randazzo himself. Randazzo, with a strong mellow voice and a most amiable personality, provides a solid core to the ensemble. But Jackie Buzgo, Randye Kaye, and Beth Bria all sing pleasantly, and Mark Holleran is an appealing new-man-on-the-scene. A surprising bonus to the ensemble is pianist Charles Wade, hidden behind his instrument. A balding, pink-cheeked little cherub, Wade pops up from time to time to make unexpected—and unexpectedly delightful—comments.

Do not look for a show of Broadway quality, but accept The Spinning Wheel Inn show for what it is. In a warm, attractive, comforting atmosphere, coddled with fine food and drink and song, one may happily pretend, at least for a time, that this is the best of all possible worlds.

-- -Irene Backalenick
November 17, 2008 


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