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Excellent acting, catchy well-sung tunes make ‘Another Night Before Christmas’ entertaining holiday fare


act-of-kindness-01On stage now through Christmas Day in the Broadway Palm’s cozy Off-Broadway theater is Sean Grennan’s Another Night Before Christmas, a delightful holiday musical starring Melissa Whitworth and Paul Glodfelter.

The play is superficially reminiscent of Valentine Davies’ Miracle on 34th Street. Whitworth plays the role of Karol Elliot, a jaded social worker who is having a crisis of Christmas spirit in her spare, undecorated top-floor condominium. While umbrella-of-death-01heading home from work on Christmas Eve, she passes a grizzled bearded guy who is talking to himself. Assuming he’s homeless, she offers him a bag of leftovers from the office Christmas party. Later, as she prepares to settle in for a long winter’s night, the Guy appears in her living room claiming to be Santa Claus. When her finicky, overpriced alarm system (which hilariously calls her every name but her own) locks every door umbrella-of-death-08and window in her apartment, she realizes she has no choice but to confront his delusions and her own adamant refusal to allow Christmas into her heart, never mind her home.

Glodfelter is brilliant as a snarky, hipster version of 1600-year-old Kris Kringle, who fondly all-tied-up-01reminisces at one point about sitting in the stands in Detroit’s Bennett Park on the day Orval Overall pitched the Chicago Cubs to their last World Series championship prior to the one they just achieved. His voice thunders. His baritone booms. He is relentless in his efforts to convince his reluctant hostess that he is, in fact, Pere Noel in the flesh. Compliments of the witty repartee carefully built into the play’s dialogue, Glodfelter is crisp, funny and endearing in ways that will make you forget Edmund Gwenn in the original and Richard Attenborough in the most recent remake of Miracle. But the Guy is no department store Santa. He arrives in Elliott’s condo as a bullish-03sooty, disheveled homeless man in dire need of a bath because she has made no place for Santa in her home or her life. Someone who’s homeless, therefore, is the only type of person with whom Karol could possibly relate.

The play contains a legion of touching moments such as this, but what makes this production work so successfully is that Whitworth finds a way to believe-in-me-05make her character sympathetic and ultimately lovable. That’s no easy feat. It’s hard to imagine a more anti-social social worker than Karol Elliott. Alone in her living room, she rails against the noise and merriment wafting up from the floors beneath her booted feet as she channels her inner Marlene Dietrich, wailing that she just wants to be left alone. She is grumpy, shrill and bone-weary, and she’s in no mood for conversation or company. santa-is-going-to-town-03But over the course of the two-hour production, she softens in incremental layers as she warms to her intruder and alternately entertains and rejects the possibility that he just might be the guy he claims to be. As she vacillates between these two poles, we find ourselves rooting for him not only to be Santa, but to find a way to dissolve the sad world of disappointment and disillusionment that Karol has occupied since she was six years old.

Rest assured, Another Night Before Christmas is a musical and Leah Okimoto provides a number of promo-02wonderful scores. Both Glodfelter and Whitworth have terrific voices individually, but the best and most memorable numbers in this show are their duets, particularly The Big Guy’s in the House, Christmas Moon and the tear-inducing Please Send Me Christmas. But if you’ve ever found yourself hating the incessant barrage of Christmas music blaring in every store and elevator, you will absolutely relish every note of Kill Der Bingle, in i-want-my-life-back-02which both Santa and Karol gleefully harmonize about their desire to kill Bing Crosby.

The medley of songs included by Grennan and Okimoto are not mere musical interludes. They move the characters and the plot to its satisfying conclusion. Another Night Before Christmas is not just another holiday story. It actually has something to important to say about the importance of keeping promises and rectifying christmas-moon-01past mistakes. But to their credit, Grennan, Okimoto and Broadway Palm director Paul Bernier allow these themes to emerge organically like snowflakes on Christmas eve.

There’s much to commend this play to area audiences. While admittedly Another Night Before Christmas is not important or groundbreaking theater, it is entertaining, denoted by excellent acting and catchy, well-sung tunes. So if you are looking for something a bit out of the ordinary this holiday season, Another Night Before Christmas is promo-05the play for you.

The Broadway Palm offers matinee, twilight and evening performances of his show. Salad bar lunch and dinner buffets are included, although show-only tickets are available for Off-Broadway plays. For more information or to purchase tickets, please telephone 239-278-4422 or visit

promo-06November 17, 2016.


‘Another Night Before Christmas’ opens November 17


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