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REVIEW: The Perfect Christmas - Candlelight Pavilion, Claremont

Updated: Jun 20, 2020

“…A Holiday Sugar Plum for the Whole Family!”

Director John LaLonde has done it again! “The Perfect Christmas,” presented by Candlelight Pavilion in Claremont, now playing through Christmas Eve, is a first-class production brimming with Christmas spirit, wonderful music, and an abundance of heart. This five-star dinner show, produced by Ben D. Bollinger, is full of Christmas magic, comedy and romance and will add just the right sparkle to your holiday season.

With book by Mr. LaLonde and Debbie Prutsman, it’s a visually stunning musical revue combining elegant costumes and scenery with elaborate dance routines, astonishingly perfect holiday songs, a beautifully written story, and resourceful fairy folk. In 1985, Candlelight Pavilion hosted its first Christmas show, and for more than 30 years has continued the heritage of writing and producing each show with a focus on the spirit of the season and bringing family and friends together.

Director LaLonde, with his usual flair for production, has created an unforgettable family holiday experience with beautifully blended time-honored tradition that is second to none as new talent mingles with locally acclaimed artists and long-standing favorites. Some of his most recent directorial credits at Candlelight Pavilion include “The Little Mermaid” and “The Wizard of Oz.” A visit by Santa and his wife, the highlight of the show, provides a touch of sprinkles with class and old-world charm as Santa reads letters to the North Pole, captivating dozens of children on stage. His delightful charisma and affable gentleness is not only very amusing, but truly enchanting.

“The Perfect Christmas” is a charming but occasionally chaotic view of Christmas in a small town called Holiday Heights, featuring a small Main Street group of families who are decorating their houses in an annual competition. Led by Mayor Jimmy Martin (Allen Everman, “Parade” – Chance Theater), the show centers around newlyweds Ryan and Noelle Andrews (David Sasik and Kristen Daniels) who are just moving into town and are suddenly responsible for the annual decorating theme that not only puts a glitch in their relationship but meets with vexation by the entire community.

Both actors display an astounding versatility, clearly imbued with fantastic chemistry as well as spot-on vocals and dancing. Mr. Sasik (recently seen at the Candlelight in “Bonnie & Clyde”) is exceptional in his Elvis impersonations and classic solos (“Run, Run Rudolph”). Ms. Daniels (“She Loves Me,” “Rock of Ages,” “Hairspray”), is debuting in her first show at the Candlelight and adds a touch of elegance and pinache to the stage with her cultured, gilt-edged voice. Their duet, “Over the River and Through the Woods” is exemplary!

The other exuberantly animated residents in Holiday Heights are Christopher Nevarez (“Jesus Christ, Superstar”), Dani Gonzalez (“Sister Act”), Joey Caraway (also recently seen in Candlelight’s “Bonnie & Clyde”) and Rae Martinez (“Annie,”- The Hollywood Bowl) as the Williams family; Daniel Justin (“The Little Mermaid”) and Brittany Tangermann (“Dogfight”) are the Sanders. Kristina Leopold (“Festival of the Lion King,” - Hong Kong Disney) and DarRand Hall (“The Addams Family;” also the Cameraman) represent Kenny and Katherine Mason, who wow the stage in the first duet bedazzled in a glistening scene ("Someday at Christmas").

Kenny Martin (Kaine Koltoniuk), the Mayor’s ten-year-old young nephew vying for his black belt, gives the audience a thrilling show with the help of Santa’s Shaolin friend. Aaron Shaw (“The Drowsy Chaperone”) is Anatoly and Deborah Fauerbach (“Sweet Charity”/the dance captain) plays Olga. Erin Tierney (“Beauty and The Beast”) is Jennifer Lang and also plays Blinkie. Tina Nguyen (“Legally Blonde”) is Holly, Helen Tait (“The Little Mermaid”) is Winkie, and Josh Kurator (“Cinderella”) is Nod.

Musically Directed by Douglas Austin (now thirty two years at the Candlelight), the impeccable masterwork of songs is not only infused with classic holiday selections decades old, but also interspersed with more contemporary pop Christmas tunes. Songs such as “Silent Night,” “The Heat Miser Song,” and “Go Tell It on The Mountain” were among the conspectus. Mrs. Claus, an award-winning vocalist, sings a Mariah Carey song herself (“All I Want for Christmas Is You”) in the show’s finale amid thunderous applause.

The set, by Chuck Ketter, is an elaborate array of handiwork that encompasses the entire theater, including the dining area, with miniature housing facades complete with trimmings, snow and of course—Christmas lights, which are all a vision of splendor. Raised to a high art form, the set is an attraction in and of itself. One gets a little chilly just looking at them. The fireside interiors, which cleverly fold out from the impressive neighborhood exteriors and outdoor scenes to sectionalized rooms inside the homes of the cast are detailed and painted exquisitely, giving you an irresistible, festive feeling.

Expert lighting is from 4Wall Entertainment, supervised by Lighting Designer, Jonathan Daroca. Costumes, which are provided by The Theatre Company, is coordinated by Merrill Grady and Linda Vick and require multiple quick-changes for many in the cast. Kirklyn Robinson directed the wonderful choreography and dance numbers, and wigs are styled by Michon Gruber Gonzales.

“The Perfect Christmas,” bringing the warm, wonderful spirit of Christmas to life in music, comedy and dance, plays through December 24th at the Candlelight Pavilion and should immediately be added to your ‘do-not-miss’ holiday show list. But I would strongly

recommend securing your tickets now as seats are selling fast. You may conveniently call (909)626-1254, ext. 1 today, or visit the box office online at

Chris Daniels

Arts Reviewer


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