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Theater Review: Quite a ‘Holly Jolly’ party at The Pines

You know your annual, perfectly planned, Christmas Eve party is falling apart when your guest is a rude boor and his wife drinks a little too much.

It doesn’t help that your wife checks on your every move like you can’t be trusted to get things right.

The last thing you want is a Christmas humbug letter from the bank, informing you in legalese that your high-rise apartment building is being redeveloped out of your price range and that you will need to move out in 30 days.

Talk about stress.

Thanks to some Christmas Spirit intervention, it turns out to be a great party after all in the musical comedy written and directed by Oliver Blatt, “Holly Jolly Christmas,” through Dec. 23, The Pines Dinner Theatre, Allentown.

The handsome, but nervous, husband and host, Rob (Kent Benwell), has planned the Christmas Eve party in meticulous detail (“I’ve looked forward to this all year long!”). He decorated the all-white, beautifully-trimmed Christmas tree. A huge, white wreath adorns the fireplace. Rob has a list to check twice and a timetable to keep things on schedule.

Kent plays the nervous host to perfection and when he sings, he shines.

Rob’s wife, Laura (Amber Blatt), is every inch the well-dressed perfect wife and is the glue that keeps Rob together.

“Are you sure we’re ready?”

“We are ready! Just. Calm. Down.”

Laura makes sure that Rob remembers to do the things that need to be done.

Maggie (Eileen Deisemann) is an irrepressible guest who knows where the liquor is kept in the kitchen. She helps herself liberally, and keeps the other guests well-supplied. She is a free-spirited character who is always ready to burst into song. Maggie needs that positive, upbeat attitude to balance her husband, Kris (“That’s Kris with a to-pher, please.”) with his dour, off-putting personality.

Kristopher (Maxwell Gorman) plays a stuffed-shirt, self-important man who believes he is doing everyone a favor by being at the party. When he makes an appearance as a cool rockin’ Santa Claus with a terrific voice, the persona shift is dramatic and great fun.

Oliver Blatt’s original music and lyrics are brought to life by the four sterling actors, who harmonize well, project above the instruments, and deliver a wonderful show.

Traditional Christmas songs enliven the production. Especially entertaining are Blatt’s songs, “Hollyest Jollyest Christmas” and “Merry Magical Christmas.”

The musicians are perfect: Oliver Blatt, piano; Stacy Bechtel, bass, and Dan Mark, drums.

Stacey B. Yoder’s costume design have a fashionable tone for the up-scale characters.

The set design and lighting by Oliver Blatt is simple, high-key and effective in setting the festive mood of the story.

Tickets: Pines Dinner Theatre box office, 448 N. 17th St., Allentown; 610-433-2333; https://www.pinesdinnertheatre.com/

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY PINES DINNER THEATRE From left: Maxwell Gorman (Kristopher), Kent Benwell (Rob), Amber Blatt (Laura) and Eileen Deisemann (Maggie), “Holly Jolly Christmas,” The Pines Dinner Theatre.