For an evening of Christmas carols and quaint yuletide cheer, you won’t do much better than “A Little London Christmas.”
Eight carolers in 19th-century garb sing with unwaveringly strong voices and tight harmonies about the Christ child and related subjects. There’s not a Rudolph or a jingle bell in the whole show, which alone makes it unusual. This is a show that celebrates Jesus Christ, not the accoutrements we’ve come to associate with the season.
The leader is Nicholas (Davison Cheney), who tells us we’re taking a journey through Christmases past back to the very first one. Accompanying him are seven people whose personalities are summed up in a line or two: Lucy (Sarah Broberg) wants to hear an angel sing; Agatha (Lynne D. Bronson) is selfish and worldly; you get the idea. (The remaining five are Elijah Cardon, Mary Hall Drinkwater, Jared Pulham, Rob Roxburgh, and Juliet Joy Hall double-cast with Katy Worlton Pulham.)
The pageant-like dialogue, written by Marvin Payne, serves mainly to get us from one song to the next. There is no plot to speak of, and the acting tends to be over-dramatic. Essentially, it’s a concert of Christmas songs that pretends to be more than just a concert.
This is problematic: Either give us a story and characters or don’t. This half-way business just makes the audience expect more than it’s going to get. If we knew from the outset that we were at a caroling concert, we’d be fine with it. But setting up characters who then don’t go anywhere changes our expectations.
Much of the music is extremely beautiful, and several less-familiar works are included along with traditional carols. “Badgers and Hedgehogs” is a jaunty, utterly charming little number about various animals praising the Lord. “No Room in the Inn” and “This Little Babe” also stand out, though placing too much emphasis on them might detract from the many other gorgeous songs that could be named just as well.
We sat at the very back table in the very back row of the theater. Seated at the table with us were an older woman and her granddaughter. I had called for tickets only three days earlier; they had called three WEEKS earlier -- and yet we had the same bad seats. We wondered where all the people who called between us had been seated.