|An American Christmas|
|Dec 16th, 2013 - Dec 24th, 2013|
|Charlene (Koepf) Wilkinson|
|Alexis Rae Tenney|
|Deborah Gilmour Smyth|
|John Burt Polhamus|
|Gregory Marshall||Jesse Abeel|
|Musical Director||Deborah Gilmour Smyth|
|Choreographer||Colleen Kollar Smith|
|Sound Designer||Patrick J. Duffy|
|Stage Manager||Maria Mangiavellano|
|Assistant Stage Manager||Michelle Miles|
|Light Designer||Michelle Miles|
|Costume Designer||Jeanne Reith|
|"Exceptionally entertaining! Far exceeded my wildest expectations."|
|- David Lansing ( Sunset Magazine )|
|"A lavish holiday feast with a historical twist! The atmosphere is authentic and undeniably merry. Guests leave with all their Yuletide yearnings satisfied!"|
|- ( Westways Magazine )|
|"A perfect melding of food, ambience, and showmanship."|
|- ( San Diego Magazine )|
|"I love the Hotel Del at Christmastime. It's like you're back 100 years, which is where you should be at Christmas."|
|- ( Ray Bradbury )|
|"Twenty-one years ago, Robert Smyth wanted to develop a Christmas dinner show for his Lamb’s Players Theatre, but every holiday script he read was set in the Victorian England of Charles Dickens.
“I thought, what about an American Christmas?” said Smyth, producing artistic director for the Coronado-based theater company. “An American celebration would be unique because we’re a nation of immigrants who bring a lot of traditions together and that creates a unique flavor all its own.”
In 1992, Smyth’s “An American Christmas” debuted at the Granger Music Hall in National City. The Lamb’s Players production featured actors playing members of a large family coming together in 1905 San Diego to celebrate the holidays, with audience members doing double-duty as the family’s invited party guests. The actors in the show not only sang and danced, they also set the tables, served the meal and cleaned up afterward.
Two years later, Lamb’s Players moved from National City to downtown Coronado and Smyth went looking for a new hall to stage his historically themed holiday dinner. Turns out, one of his new neighbors was interested. Dean Nelson, then president of the Hotel del Coronado, attended a performance of “An American Christmas” and the very next morning, he invited Lamb’s to move the gala dinner into the historic hotel’s Crown ballroom.
Since then, “An American Christmas” has grown to become one of the Del’s most popular holiday traditions. This season’s run opens Monday and runs for 9 nights (no performance Christmas Day). The show includes a gourmet five-course dinner served while the Lamb’s cast of 27 performs a three-hour show that includes singing, dancing and audience interaction.
The show’s plot is the holiday reunion of members of San Diego’s affluent Marshall family, circa 1912. Joining widowed family matriarch Willa Ray Marshall (played each year by Deborah Gilmour Smyth, Lamb’s associate artistic director) are her adult sons, daughters and in-laws, nephews and nieces, business associates, neighbors and family friends (not to mention about 350 ticket-holders who are the Marshall’s honored guests each night).
Between courses, the Marshalls entertain with songs, stories, jokes, poems, Champagne toasts, singalongs and dancing. Diners celebrating birthdays, weddings and anniversaries are singled out for notice (one couple celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary at the dinner one night, while another couple attended on their wedding night). Each night, one male audience member is named Potato King and feted with a parade (led by Robert Smyth, who plays Willa Ray’s bawdy Irish immigrant cousin, Ian O’Casey). The actors circulate to every table and interact (in character) with guests; they wander the aisles singing barbershop harmony, and they bring small children in attendance onstage at the end of the show to perform a choreographed dance.
Each fall, Smyth updates the script so that the story is always 100 years in the past. In one segment of the show, male cast members read historical facts from newspapers of the day (for example, in 1912 the Oreo cookie was invented and Fenway Park debuted). Gilmour Smyth updates the score each year with popular songs of the day. And the costumers and wigs crew make regular updates to keep up with the times.
This year, all of the men’s costumes will be updated with white waistcoats, which were all the rage in 1912. In last year’s show, female cast members wore elaborate hats to celebrate California’s suffragettes (who won the right to vote in 1911). But in 1912, hats were out of fashion, so costumer Jeanne Reith has retired them from this year’s show. Coming soon are changes to the men’s wigs and facial hair. When World War I began in 1914, men heading into the service shaved off their mustaches and beards so their gas masks would fit securely in the trenches.
Each year there is a special themed tribute in the after-dinner program. In 2009, it was the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. This year, the cast will commemorate the tragic sinking of the Titanic with a poignant reading of the Thomas Hardy poem “The Convergence of the Twain."
|- Pam Kragen ( North County Times )|