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Theatre-Go-Round Shines as Brightly as the Star of Bethlehem

By Barbara Yoresh

What’s the true spirit and meaning of Christmas? Is it defined by the now pre- as well as post-Thanksgiving Black Friday retail sales bonanzas? Is it embodied in the riot of colorful advertising inserts in newspapers and articles about ways to avoid holiday stress when Uncle Max insists upon making provocative political remarks during Christmas dinner? Is it stuffing oneself to bursting (and heartburn) on a cornucopia of holiday treats?

We inherently know that none of the above referenced “celebrating” has little if anything to do with a truly genuine Christmas observance and yet each year many do indeed fall victim to the holiday’s less fortunate aspects.

But there is a better way – a truer way - to experience Christmas and for several years now, area dinner theatre patrons have had a fortunate option to fulfill every wish on their musical holiday list and in so doing, experience the best of Christmas spirit.

Jon Putzke and his cast at Theatre-Go-Round Dinner Theatre (TGR) continue to delight audiences and holiday revelers with musical revues that leave no doubt that Christmas is so much more than grabbing some great midnight deal on an 80-inch television set. His limited engagement, five-performance holiday show “Champagne & Candy Canes” puts the holiday mood back into its proper and true perspective: peace, love and goodwill to all mankind.

The show opened to a full house on Nov. 24 at the beautiful and prestigious TGR home at the Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa complex in beachside Vero Beach. Dinner theatre patrons were clearly ready, willing and able to kick off their holiday season celebration with a three-course gourmet dinner and a 16-song performance by supremely talented veteran TGR cast members Beth Shestak, Greg and Caitlin Harris and Brendan Wenger. All four wore elegant black outfits courtesy of Marg Putzke’s fashion design prowess.

 

Family, friends and religious wonder are what matter long after the carefully wrapped presents have been opened and likely returned. And it is this warm seasonal glow that Putzke and his talented performers stoke and keep burning with a holiday song list that literally awed the audience with its uncommonly beautiful arrangements and vocal renditions and had them on their feet for a final standing ovation.

 

Even without the literal “White Christmas” setting of colder climes, Putzke unfailingly imbues his shows with more cozy warmth than a roaring, log-filled fireplace. With the holiday season beginning at Halloween – solely for the benefit of retailers eager for shoppers – Putzke instead turns the focus on the true meaning of Christmas and all its non-material joy.

 

A quartet of two male and two female voices provides an almost endless opportunity for vocal harmonies as well as break-out solos and Putzke’s cast shined as brightly as the Star of Bethlehem on holiday songs which showcased the season.

 

Despite outdoor temperatures in the mid-70s, “Sleigh Ride” set a snowy holiday tone later followed by “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” “Let It Snow” and “Snow” (which poses “what is Christmas with no snow?). There was no snow on Ocean Drive in Vero Beach, but no matter. It felt like Christmas thanks to these enthusiastic singers.

Greg Harris and Brendan Wenger performed a wonderfully arranged “Peace on Earth” which included the title song sung against a contra melody of “Little Drummer Boy.”

Beth Shestak has long been a professional performer and theatrical choreographer/director and is blessed with a glorious voice which was movingly featured in her solo rendition of “It Wasn’t His Child” which told of Joseph’s love for Jesus. The beauty of such love – for God’s child – and the way Beth sang of it - was enough to bring this Jewish gal to tears.

Caitlin Harris (the wife of Greg) is also possessed of a thrilling soprano range and her lead on “Silent Night” and the overall arrangement for the entire quartet made that holiday classic literally spine-tingling in its beauty.

Beth’s handling of the “Little Drummer Boy” choreography was to have the quartet render that holiday favorite in a uniquely creative and moving way: the cast sang the song with accompanying sign language. Just exquisite!

And in his ever-flawless depth of just knowing what works for live performance, Putzke left for the show’s finale a song which drove home for many “of an age” in the audience who are all too aware how precious time and loved ones have become.

“’Til the Season Comes ‘Round Again” tells of the joys of the holidays and good will and wishes for yet another fest next year. For those who have lost loved ones since last Christmas, the song seemed like a supplication as well as a celebration. Putzke and his cast have indeed found the true spirit and meaning of Christmas.

Barbara Yoresh attended Boston University and became a staff writer for a group of Palm Beach County newspapers, both daily and weekly before moving to Vero Beach 10 years ago. Since then, Yoresh has written countless feature stories, previews and reviews in the arts and entertainment field for Hometown News, Vero Beach 32963, The Press Journal and the Vero Beach Newsweekly.


Let Theatre-Go-Round Put a Little Holiday in Your Heart

By Kim Piston
Editor  & Owner of the Inside Track Almanac Magazine

           

            Theatre-Go-Round Dinner Theatre is delivering yet another performance that highlights the incredible talent directed by Jon Putzke.  “Champagne and Candy Canes” is this year’s joyful holiday performance, a limited engagement that TGR audiences look forward to every year.

            The singing group composed of Beth Shestak, Brendan Wenger, Gregory Harris and Caitlin Harris will delight audiences and inspire holiday spirits through December 22 at Costa d’Este Beach Resort. “Champagne and Candy Canes” opened on November 24, 2019 to a sold-out crowd.  The group performed a 16-song program featuring holiday hits and favorites that span several decades. 

            The show opens with a fun and bubbly rendition of “Sleigh Ride” featuring all four entering through the audience and making their way to the stage by greeting patrons among the tables with a warm familiar flare.  The entire performance is brimming with Christmas cheer and captivating harmonies but there are a few that really stand out.  Caitlin Harris, who recently starred as Guenevere in “Camelot” at the Vero Beach Theatre Guild, delivers a sweet downhome version of “Put a Little Holiday in Your Heart” followed by choreographer, Beth McKenzie-Shestak’s rich and jazzy rendition of “This Christmas.”

            Brendan Wenger is his usual swoony self with a flirtatious performance of “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” undoubtedly leaving many of the ladies in the audience wondering what Brendan is doing New Year’s Eve.  He is later joined on stage by musical director Gregory Harris for a stunning duet of David Bowie and Bing Crosby’s “Peace on Earth,” showing off his incredible range, perfectly paired with Harris’s voluminous baritenor voice.  The touching piece had many audience members on the verge of tears and then Beth sent them over the edge with “It Wasn’t His Child” leaving scarcely a dry eye in the room.  

            The highlight of any TGR performance is always when the foursome sings together in four-part harmony and “Champagne and Candy Canes” features among others, two such instances that wowed patrons.  They performed a pitch-perfect a Capella version of “Carol of the Bells” that accentuates just how deep the singing talent runs between them.  It seemed that could have been THE standout moment of the evening had it not been for what came next which was truly breathtaking.  The group’s performance of “Silent Night” was nothing short of sublime and demonstrated why Caitlin Harris is Vero’s favorite soprano. 

            Everything about this show features the best of what Putzke and company have done consistently for 12 years.  Solid singing talent and clever choreography are at the heart of every TGR performance, but its soul is made of all those little things that add up. Each of these performers brings a special ingredient to the region’s only dinner theatre. Beth commands attention with an amazing and polished Broadway vibe and Caitlin is unmistakably the girl next door with an angelic voice.  Brendan’s flirtatious ways and adorable smile are contagious, and funny man Greg has a spontaneous knack for hamming it up and keeping everyone giggling. 

            “Champagne and Candy Canes” is a festive and elegant holiday treat. The performance includes a three-course meal expertly prepared and served by Costa’s outstanding chefs and attentive service staff. Patrons can choose between a generous portion of prime rib, seafood of the day or chicken breast.  The show also features a “Peppermint White Christmas” drink special; a yummy concoction of champagne, white crème de cocoa garnished with a bite sized candy cane.

            If you need a little more holiday in your heart, go see this show.  You’ll enjoy a fabulous meal, first-class entertainment and maybe even make a new friend or two!