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Theater Review: Pines ‘Home for the Holidays’

Take your Christmas disappointments, rub them together and kindle a warm fire to brighten your holidays.

That’s what happens in the Pines Dinner Theatre production of “Home For the Holidays.”

The original play by author, director and producer Oliver Blatt, with music and lyrics by Oliver Blatt and Stacy Bechtel, and additional music and lyrics by Jason Michael and Gene Culkin, continues through Dec. 19, Pines Dinner Theatre, Allentown. Bechtel is music director. Blatt is choreographer.

The children of empty nesters Sam (Don Hart) and Marty Fergueson (Barbi McGuire) plan to visit their parents, but can’t get there because flights are grounded by a heavy winter storm. They are all very disappointed.

Sam and Marty’s duet, “Country Christmas Feeling,” sets the tone and the scene. It is sweet, heartfelt and it showcases the wonderful voices of Hart and McGuire.

When Jane (Abigail Garrigan) and Walter Marshall (Michael Covel), a young couple from New York, get lost and run out of gas on the country road near Sam and Marty’s upstate New York cabin, they and their young daughter, Emma Marshall (Mia Jones), are also very disappointed.

After the Marshalls seek shelter from the cold and the Ferguesons find that their spirit of hospitality brings its own happiness, their collective disappointments fade and the holiday turns into everyone’s best Christmas ever.

“13 Days,” one of the original songs by Blatt, Bechtel, Michael and Culkin, is lovely.

In addition to having a fine singing voice, Garrigan is mesmerizing in her performance as the young mother of a delightful child and wife of an insecure husband.

McGuire’s portrayal of the cheerful, common-sense wife is delightfully likable and a wonderful juxtaposition to husband Sam’s reticent and twitchy character.

Hart is great fun as he morphs from the slightly reluctant host into father figure to guest Walter.

Jones is great in her role as the youngster. Her interactions with McGuire in the country cabin kitchen illustrates the eternal truth that even city girls like to “help” when cookies are being made.

Jones makes her biggest impression with a great delivery of “Starry Night” on a clever outdoors set.

Covel’s portrayal of an uptight young father with a lot of angst in his baggage is terrific. His telling of a story to his host Sam about not getting a much hoped-for childhood gift provides an emotional high point in the play. It also foreshadows a surprise Christmas miracle.

Blatt’s set design is excellent, effectively managing three scenes on the small stage. His country cabin is warm and inviting and the barn looks like there should be a couple of cows in residence.

Bechtel’s and Blatt’s sound effects and innovating lighting is very effective from the drama of static muffled radio announcers updating an impending storm to the wonderful “star” light employed in the “Star Medley” song.

Props and costumes by Stacey B. Yoder capture two different cultures as the two families meet. Yoder is also a co-producer of this fun Christmas musical.

From the ear-flaps cap worn by Sam to Walter’s Brooklyn Heights style tight, black coat and chic neck scarf worn by Walter, it is clear that some of these people ain’t from around here.

Tickets: www.pinesdinnertheatre.com; 610-433-2333