Bethlehem Press

Friday, December 14, 2018
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY THE PINES DINNER THEATREFrom left, R.J. Magee, Amber Blatt, Stacey B. Yoder and Shakil Azizi, “Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland,” Pines Dinner Theatre, Allentown. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY THE PINES DINNER THEATREFrom left, R.J. Magee, Amber Blatt, Stacey B. Yoder and Shakil Azizi, “Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland,” Pines Dinner Theatre, Allentown.

Theater Review: ‘Walkin’ in the Christmas season at The Pines

Wednesday, November 14, 2018 by CAROLE GORNEY Special to The Press in Focus

If you are eager to get into the Christmas spirit or if you just can’t get enough of the carols and holiday cheer, then The Pines Dinner Theatre’s spirited musical “Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland,” continuing through Dec. 23, is just the ticket.

It’s non-stop singing and dancing, with lots of references to the memories and traditions that make the season special.

There are also many musical and staging innovations that make this Pines’ production special as well. As seen Nov. 9 for this review, three musicians are listed as part of the cast because they perform center stage on a moveable platform. The very accomplished musicians are Stacy Bechtel, piano; David Heine, reeds, and Beth McElroy, drums.

Bechtel not only plays and conducts the musicians on-stage, she and director Oliver Blatt did the orchestrations for more than 30 secular songs and traditional sacred carols.

Most are old standbys, but the innovative blending of different songs, as well as variations on familiar melodies, helps give new life to the very familiar. One example is the rousing rendition of “Jingle Bells,” with a little “Snow” thrown in, and a recitation of the names of Santa’s reindeer.

The four-member singing cast, Shakil Azizi, Karissa Fulmer (for this performance alternating with Amber Blatt), R.J. Magee and Stacey B. Yoder, create some special moments of their own. One of the most stirring performances is Azizi singing “O Holy Night.” The solo showcases not only his marvelous voice, but also a sincere depth of feeling.

Fulmer is a standout when it came to facial expressions and the ability to emote. Magee provides a jovial aspect to the show.

There is one other surprise cast member who arrives late in the show, but I didn’t catch his name. He was visiting from up north somewhere, which may explain why he was wearing a heavy red suit.

The cast’s stunning costumes, designed by Stacey Yoder, include at least five wardrobe changes during the two acts. It is worth noting that the costumes are color-coordinated to match the changing set and lighting effects in any given scene.

Blatt’s set and multi-colored light designs are visually impressive, from giant lighted snowflakes on the arch over the front of the stage, to images projected on the drop scrim, and backlit silhouettes used in telling the story of the Nativity.

By far, “Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland” is one of the more colorful productions seen at The Pines in recent years.

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