The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title Holiday in the Hills
Organization Sutter Street Theatre
Date(s) of show December 7-23, 2013
Reviewer Gerry Camp

This is a review of the Sutter Street Theatre’s latest production, Holiday in the Hills. As a newcomer to Folsom, I didn’t know this show is a holiday tradition, being presented for its eighth time. I’ll tell you about the show below, but before I do I want to shine the spotlight on the two people responsible for this show and indeed every show at the Sutter Street:  Connie Mockenhaupt and Mike Jimena.

It’s easy, when enjoying a show, to overlook this couple. You might note that the beautiful sets were created by Mike, an accomplished artist. You may see him acting in a supporting role. If you’re watching a musical, like the recent outstanding Young Frankenstein, you might not take special notice that the show was directed and choreographed by Connie.

Both Mike and Connie have multiple degrees in theater arts and have directed and acted in hundreds of productions. Theater lovers in Folsom need to be aware of what a gift we have in these two brilliant artists. It is appropriate to note our gratitude while experiencing Holiday in the Hills, because it is truly the Mike and Connie show.

If you go to the show expecting, as I did, to learn about the history of Folsom in the 1880s, give or take a year or two, you can do that by reading the program carefully. Each of the performers is playing a real person who had a real presence in Folsom at that time, and the program will tell you who each is and what they contributed to the town.

And what did these prominent citizens and children of Folsom do in 1880? The show makes very clear that what they did was sing and dance up a storm. No boring historical or biographical speeches, just glorious song and energetic and excitingly choreographed dance. I can’t remember a musical I’ve gotten more caught up in.

The only character in the show we really get to know by name is Peter J. Hopper who was editor of the Telegraph in those days. Mr. Hopper, performed with great style by none other than Mike Jimena, is the master of ceremonies of this extravaganza. His reading of “The Night Before Christmas” will make you feel you’ve never really heard this poem before.

It is difficult to single out individual singers, though a few who really impressed me with their vocal talent were Tom Dwyer, Dian Hoel, and Tyler Eckert. A vocal highlight was the solo of “Merry Christmas, Baby,” given a sexy turn with the audience by, yes, Connie Mockenhaupt playing Emma Spencer, the town madam, in a sexy red dress. The entire ensemble, though, deserves full kudos for this wonderful music accompanied by John Wilder with a keyboard he makes sound like an orchestra. The songs are often variations on traditional Christmas favorites. Thus we learn about the Twelve Days After Christmas” and “O Christmas Tree” becomes “Oh Plastic Tree.” Who knew they had plastic Christmas trees in 1880? Give or take a year or two.

The most amazing song in the show is “Yah Das Ist Und Christmas Tree” which brought the whole audience to its feet and made us all members of the Full Ensemble. If you are a long-time Folsom resident who has seen this show before, or a newcomer like me, I must tell you that a visit to the Mike and Connie show, Holiday in the Hills, is guaranteed to put you in the holiday mood.

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