The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title Holiday in the Hills
Organization Sutter Street Theatre
Date(s) of show December 6-23, 2014
Reviewer Gerry Camp

I had a front row seat on the sold-out opening night of this year’s version of Sutter Street Theatre’s annual musical treat, “Holiday in the Hills.” I have seen every Sutter Street production since May of 2013 and even acted in one, “Sarah Plain and Tall.”  This show is the most fun I have had in this or any theatre in that time.

That said, I must admit this will not be a fair, “objective” review. After seeing everything Sutter Street has done, I have developed a great fondness for the people who put this show and the others together, and for a number of performers I have seen several times. Everyone on stage is excellent, a true ensemble cast, but I’ll unfairly slight newcomers and focus on those whose work I have grown to love.

What sort of show is “Holiday in the Hills”? Different every year (this is its ninth production), the show claims to be a gathering of actual residents of Folsom or visitors in the late 1800s, “give or take a year or two.” Director Connie Mockenhaupt tells us that “some [of the stories] are true, some are expanded a bit, and some are just plain made up.” But this is not a history play. It is a non-stop celebration in song and dance of the joy of musical theatre.

Mike Jimena, Managing Director, set designer, artist, actor and director, narrates the show as Peter J. Hopper, the owner and editor of The Folsom Telegraph. His warmth and charm set the tone for the show. The outstanding performer, in my opinion, is the multi-talented Christopher Celestin. Chris is a wonderful singer, dancer, and actor whose smile and good looks command attention whether he is doing a solo, a duo or trio, or is part of the ensemble.

Talking about Chris brings me to Hazel Johnson, the “senior” member of the cast, who, among other contributions, does a hilarious bit to “Baby It’s Cold Outside” in which she tries to seduce Chris’s schoolteacher as he tries desperately to escape her grasp.

A highlight of this show is Kelly Mauro as Hazel McFarland, another editor of the Telegraph. I acted with Kelly and her daughter Grace, who is also in this show, in “Sarah Plain and Tall.” Here Kelly sings a beautiful solo, “Merry Christmas Darling,” performs a solo violin piece, and sings and dances with the ensemble throughout the show. This year her youngest daughter, six-year-old Annie, who made her theatrical debut with her mom and sister earlier this year in “Folsom’s Gold,” steals the hearts of the entire audience.

In the sexiest number in the show, Artistic Director Connie Mockenhaupt, (who is also co-writer, director, and choreographer) reprises her role as Emma Spencer, the town madam. Her “Merry Christmas, Baby” brings down the house as she moves through the audience, flirting with every man she encounters.

And speaking of the audience, “Holiday in the Hills” makes the audience part of the show in a way I’ve never seen happen elsewhere. Christopher Celestin, in a “horrible German accent,” teaches the audience the moves and the choreography to “Yah Das Ist Und Christmas Tree,” which everyone performs, not just once, but twice—the last time at double speed. Talk about fun in the theatre!

I must not close without mentioning the always brilliant accompaniment of John Wilder. We were awarded not only his wonderful keyboard work, but also two solos on his other instrument, the banjo. John remains one of the greatest assets of Sutter Street Theatre.

My apologies to the many outstanding performers I did not have room to mention. There is not a weak spot in the cast. I can’t emphasize strongly enough, for a fantastic evening of holiday entertainment that will bring a smile to your face as you remember it throughout the season, do not miss this year’s version of “Holiday in the Hills.”  But get tickets soon—folks who have seen this show in the past will make this a sell-out very quickly.

 Reviews Home    Organizations    Shows