REVIEW: A Very, Very Chance Holiday Cabaret—Chance Theater

According to Hosts Holly Moley and Dirk de Halls: “It’s a Very Merry Virtual Joyous Season of Song and Warm Fuzzy Pandemic Musical Escape of Chance Holiday Memories and Caroling Cabarets.”


And they’re not wrong. This time of year was always chocked full of Christmas musicals, concerts, and lively carolers, back when theatre was live—more holiday pageants that you could shake Tiny Tim’s crutch at! (Only a year ago when you think about it.) But this holiday season, as you know, has put the squeeze on stage entertainment, so, as you can see on the internet, it’s a bit different this year. But we’ve got a sure-fire way to lift your spirits as Chance Theater unwraps an early Christmas present for audiences with an old-fashioned jazz-inflected holiday show entitled, “A Very, Very, Chance Holiday Cabaret,” which definitely did make my evening "merry and bright."


Hosted with hilarious holiday humor by Alex Bueno (“Loch Ness”) and Matt Takahashi (“A Charlie Brown Christmas”) who play newscaster narrators so convincingly that any minute you might expect to see Hoda Kotb and Ryan Seacrest pointing at a giant Bullwinkle balloon hovering over your house, this family-friendly cabaret revue is available right now for live-streaming and will be available through January 10th 2021, showcasing a plethora of Chance resident artists who are lovingly sharing their talent with you in celebration of the happiest of seasons.


The cast includes theatre veterans and relative newcomers who share the spotlight with the ease of a true ensemble, creating charismatic memorable moments with their show stopping solos and exceptional harmonies. Flawless voices ring out loud and clear with each number, while radiating ebullient stage persona, with merriment blazing like a yule log.


Ms. Bueno (or, Holly Moley) is decidedly charming in her slightly frazzled depiction. Mr. Takahashi was a real delight as he executed his high camp and fun hoopla as Dirk de Halls (I can’t imagine him any other way). The cast for “A Very, Very, Chance Holiday Cabaret” includes performers Jisel Soleil Ayon (“Lizzie, The Musical”), Jimmy Beall (“Fun Home”), Scarlett Brais (in a Chance debut), Tucker Boyes (“The Secret Garden”), Jocelyn A. Brown (“Into the Woods”), Aimee Gomez (“A Celtic Holiday with Craic in the Stone”), Jacob Gonzalez (“Lizzie, The Musical”), Laura M. Hathaway (“Big Fish”), Robyn Manion (“Hairspray”), James McHale (“Dogfight”), Erika C. Miller (“Little Women – The Broadway Musical”), Monika Peña (“Lizzie, The Musical”), Nicole Schlitt (“Anne of Green Gables”).

Yunga Webb (“Ragtime”), Dony Wright (“Ragtime”), and Jorge Zuniga (“Violet”).


An annual tradition for many years, this 70-minute show is directed by Jocelyn A. Brown (Director of Lizzie, the Musical”) and musically directed by Robyn Manion, both active participants in several segments as vocalists. All total, 18 Chance Artists combine a diverse collection of seasonal songs from around the world with a sprinkling of traditional favorites to produce a tasty holiday treat, ranging from "Jingle Bells" to "Siyahamba" to "Shalom Chaverim."


Starting the show off was a soft jazzed-up folk-song rendition of “I Saw Three Ships” by the incredible James McHale, accompanying himself on guitar. His velvet baritone was really in high definition here and right on target. “But who is Jeanette and why is she setting those ships on fire?” cracks Matt.


Dony Wright’s “Jingle Bells” then set the mic on fire as he began wontedly, but ended with jaw-dropping riffs that shattered the rafters. Following his performance, Robyn Manion, Monika Peña and Tucker Boyes with a trio of treats, sang carols from around the world, including the stand-out number "A La Nanita Nana."


Other amazing selections featured Erika C. Miller and Laura M. Hathaway teaming with Mr. McHale on guitar again with an astonishing old world version of "Ei Kaleda," Robyn Manion once again with the classically empowering “The First Noel,” and Ms. Miller’s hauntingly beautiful “Pretty Little Horses.” All this mixed with risible activities with our elegantly caricatured hosts, Matt and Alex.

Then, from the Chance Kiddos…we have a medley of fresh standards, some great home movie Christmas karaoke, and a bunch of cute adorable kids negotiating the lyrics to “Up on The Housetop” and “Jolly Old Saint Nickolas.” Reflections from Matt’s youth also revealed a surprise confession: “…I shot my father with a BB thinking it was an intruder, and now it’s a holiday tradition at the house.” Or something to that effect.


“Siyahamba” is a South African hymn that was originally a folk song and became popular in North American churches in the 1990s. The title means "We Are Marching" or "We are Walking in the Light of Truth" in the Zulu language. Performed by Jisel Soleil Ayon, the song became one embedded in memory and hard to keep from humming later, her presentation beyond exemplary.


The 12th Century Irish melody, "Wexford Carol" was mesmerizing from Director Jocelyn A. Brown; Robyn Manion, Erika C. Miller and Scarlett Brais ring out with an uptempo “Joy To The World;” and the hosts sneak into the studio on a break in invisible suits, dress up in reindeer outfits, then sing “Holidays May Get Ya Down”…(I belieeeeve, to the tune of “Camptown Races”) in a high-spirited skit resulting in the show going to a test pattern.


Erika, Jocelyn and Robyn once again are united in a Hebrew song, sending the wish for peace, dear friends…goodbye ‘til we meet again; Yunga Webb is powerful and infused in “Oh Come All Ye Faithful;” and seven resident artists resounds to “Here We Come A-Wassailing,” also known as “Here We Come A-Christmasing,” a traditional 19th century English Christmas carol and New Year song, wishing good health while exchanging gifts door to door. Finally, as Robyn recalls the love and kindness of days gone by, expressing gratitude for any donations that would go to reopening the Chance doors safely, she expresses the thought in love with the age-old appropriate, "Auld Lang Syne."


The Stage Manager is Nicole Schlitt; Production Manager is Bebe Herrera; Technical Director is Masako Tobaru; Supervising Sound Editor is Ryan Brodkin and Video Technician is James Markoski and Video editor is James Tran. Musicians: on Bass is Jimmy Beall; Violin is Aimee Gomez; Guitar player is Jacob Gonzalez; On Drums is Jorge Zuniga. Robynn Manion is on keyboards.


This is a completely charming evening of music, patter, and surprises that you will not want to end. Of course it doesn’t hurt that the entire cast is accomplished performers: all endearing, funny, magnetic, and blessed with a lovely, flexible singing voice.

It’s A VERY, VERY CHANCE HOLIDAY CABARET by Chance Theater, streaming now through January 10th. Grab your ticket now at: www.chancetheatre.com Sorry, no chocolate coins accepted. Once the ticket is purchased you will be sent a link to access the show. Once you click on the link you have 48 hours to enjoy the show. Approximate Running Time: 70 minutes with no intermissions.

Chris Daniels

Arts & Entertainment Reviewer

The Show Report