A Somewhat Fun Yuletide Tradition: THE CHRISTMAS REVELS

photo credit: The Christmas Revels

photo credit: The Christmas Revels

 

presented by Revels, Inc.

Directed by Patrick Swanson George Emlen, Music Director Sanders Theatre Cambridge, MA December 16th – 27th, 2012

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Cambridge) Christmas is perhaps the one time of the year when America adheres fiercely to tradition. Every family that celebrates Christmas has its rituals, whether it’s going to midnight mass or eating all of the red M&M’s on Christmas Eve and all of the green M&M’s on Christmas Day. The trick is to keep the rituals vibrant and alive, rather than go through the motions year after year.

That’s a trick also for The Christmas Revels, the popular show playing now on Harvard’s campus. After four decades of strong crowds, it would be hard to mess with success, but while the show works well for pageantry, it has a calcified feel, as if even the cast would like to escape from the script. At one point, our M.C. of the evening says the time is right to sing a non-Irish Latin round because it is the next thing on the program, and, he adds wearily, “Because we have to.” There is a feeling that if the show didn’t proceed according to plan, the holiday-attired audience would riot.

So while we are left with pageantry, it is beautiful and sincere pageantry that can warm the toes on a cold winter’s evening. We follow Irish travelers as they amuse their children on a Christmas voyage across the Atlantic. They sing boldly, they dance with energy and they perform strange plays with costumes made of wicker. It’s enough for them to forget their troubles on board, and it spreads enough cheer for any family to want to include the Christmas Revels in their list of year-end rituals.

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