WRECK THE HALLS 'Sleighs' At TheatreWorks New Milford
Nothing kicks off the holiday season better than laughter, music, and... Innuendo? Bradford Blake's Wreck the Halls flips the holiday season on its derriere and brings a raucous start to the holiday season. From the opening disclaimer to the endless dick jokes, Wreck the Halls at TheatreWorks New Milford had the audience in stitches from beginning to end. Being in the style of a musical revue, theatergoers unaware of what they were walking into were greeted with a fast paced, song extravaganza with no overarching story or theme apart from roasting the holiday season. Between the musical direction of Charles Smith, zany use of props, and the nuanced performances of the cast, Wreck the Halls started off strong and looks to keep their yule log burning all month long.
With story being a non-factor in a musical revue, it is up to songwriter Bradford Blake and musical director Charles Smith to keep the audience entertained and the show moving forward. Blake's ability to write over twenty songs that cover almost every innuendo possible took care of the former and it was up to Smith to handle the latter. Keeping the tempos up to speed and not letting them drag, even when things start to go wrong, kept the show moving and made twenty six songs feel like fifteen; by the end of the show the audience wanted more, not really realizing how long they've been in their seats. If you can keep a modern audience in their seats for that many songs and still want more, then it's clear you've captured their attention which, in a show like this, is a crucial thing to do.
With clever songs such as "Black Friday" or "Someone Spiked the Eggnog," and the more mature rated "Snow-Where To Go," "I Wanna Be A Rockette," and "Your Christmas Package," you can't just have everyone stand at mics and sing: you need to move, you need to dance, and you need create a different mood for every piece. Blake and company took on that challenge and crushed it with their use of props. Ranging from holiday bags filled with drinks, to tree lights and inflatables, and even puppets, each song felt unique and managed to surprise the audience, leaving them wondering how the rug was going to be pulled out from under them next.
Lastly, you can't have a musical revue without the vocalists. With a powerhouse ensemble of Bret Bisaillon, Diana Matson, Priscilla Squiers, Austin Tewksbury, Carey Van Hollen, and Alexis Vournazos, they made six voices sound like dozens and had the energy to match. The performance hit a snag during an early number when Bisaillon and Squiers dropped behind the beat and lost a verse, but after channeling their lyrical hiccups into frustrations matching the intensity of their on-stage divorce, they got to the next chorus, got back on track, and the show went on. Austin Tewksbury and Carey Van Hollen stole the show vocally with their pairs of solos, "Black Friday" and "The Colors of Christmas" for Tewksbury and "Snow-Where To Go" and "That Yule Log" for Van Hollen, while Bisaillon's and Vournazos's ability to create such vastly different characters full of energy from song to song left the audience on the edge of their seat to see where they were going next. Not to mention Sqiuers's and Matson's impeccable skill of playing off each other and the rest of the cast to create tight duets and ensemble numbers that made every song feel like a fully-composed play in and of itself.
Opening night quirks aside, TheatreWorks New Milford's cast and crew of Wreck the Halls have a lot to celebrate. They created a wonderful seasonal world of mischief and satire that awed, crazed, and brought the audience to tears (of laughter) in a spectacular marathon that, as the program warns, is not suitable for younger elves. If you're an older elf and never want to look at Kris Kringle the same way ever again.