Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas Revels!

I just had the enormous enjoyment of seeing the Christmas Revels. One of the nice perks of working for The Boston Cecilia is that as a member of ArtsBoston, we occasionally get e-mails alerting us to free ticket offers for ArtsBoston members. Usually I can't take advantage of these because they are sent out almost the day of the performance, usually at the end of a run. However, yesterday I got a note that ArtsBoston members could pick up free tickets to the Christmas Revels, so tonight I took my parents.

It was great fun, as it always is. The Christmas Revels happens every year in Sanders Theatre (and other places in other states) and is a winter solstice singing/dancing/story-telling performance that focuses on a different area of the world each year. This year was the year of the Balkans. It was very well done, very tight and well-paced, and hugely enjoyable. Special props go to Libana's singing, which really had the proper gritty thrilling Balkan's women sound; the dancers, and most especially lead dancer and choreographer Petar Petrov, who were exuberant, and had fascinating feet; the mummers, especially Sarah Hebert-Johnson as Room and the aptly named Rowan Swanson as the Tree of Life, both of whom were very charming actors; and last but not least narrator Debra Wise, who was just incredibly charismatic and wonderful in all ways. There are some people whom you just love to watch on stage. A quick Google search shows that she is the artistic director of the Underground Railway Theater, about which I currently know nothing, but if it means seeing her perform, I will definitely look into learning more.

My one complaint is that since Revels started out very firmly rooted in the English solstice tradition, they feel the need to incorporate certain elements of that tradition every year, and I found the juxtaposition of Balkan and English a little awkward. The main Balkan section flowed so well that to suddenly have Morris dancers appear, or to have the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, or to be singing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" at the beginning of the performance did not really work for me. I do recognize that there are certain things that people look forward to every year, and that it would be hard for Revels to cut out, say, "The Lord of the Dance" that traditionally ends the first half. But I do wish that we could have sung some Balkan carols at the beginning instead of "We Wish You A Merry Christmas."

However, that was my only quibble, and it was a minor one, and was about programming, not performances, which were uniformly excellent. You have two more days, so if you have time, I heartily recommend this year's Revels!

And now, I am off to my own traditional New Year's celebration in the Berkshires, so won't be posting until next year. I wish you all splendid New Year's celebrations of your own - Wolcum Yole!

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