Venue: Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: 2pm and 6:30pm Sat 18th December
Duration: 2hrs 20min incl interval
Tickets: various prices for individuals and families. Contact BASS for details.
Bookings: BASS 131 241 or http://www.bass.net.au
Just like Santa checking in to his Magic Cave, the Christmas Proms have become something of a tradition, with Timothy Sexton putting his two groups, The Adelaide Art Orchestra and the Adelaide Vocal Project, through their seasonal repertoire. Each year there are guests and this year Rhonda Burchmore and PJ Lane proved popular choices. The man in the red suit, of course, put in an appearance and a couple of red-nosed clowns, Moose and Boppa, looking much like snowmen in their top hats, popped in and out during the evening. Peter Kelsall was featured on the Jubilee Organ, including a solo, and this year’s Adelaide Critics Circle Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Dale Ringland, provided some of his usual superb piano accompaniment.
The theme this year was a Dickensian Christmas, making a break from the Australian summer themes of past years. The performance began, after a little clowning, with the members of the Adelaide Vocal Project entering in 19th Century winter garb to stand beneath a lamppost and sing Away in a Manger, slipping into the song that most know as The Lord of the Dance. This Shaker tune, Simple Gifts, was then taken up by the orchestra in Aaron Copland’s arrangement. As the carollers left, the curtain opened on the orchestra to reveal a very northern hemisphere Christmas scene, the set and costume design having been created by Kathryn Sproul, with a lighting design by Phil Daddy, and the whole event flowed along nicely under the direction of Catherine Fitzgerald.
As usual there was a mix of carols, Christmas songs, light classics and a few novelties plus, of course, the chance for the audience to join in with the singing. One of the special highlights was a performance of The Carol of the Bells featuring the Mount Torrens Hand-bell Ringers, a group consisting of students from the Spring Head Trinity Lutheran Primary School and the Mount Torrens Primary School. Mark Oates gave us a revised version of the comic song, I’ve Got a Little List, from the Gilbert and Sullivan favourite, The Mikado, and it wouldn’t be a Christmas show without Irving Berlin’s White Christmas being sung, PJ Lane doing the honours on this occasion.
Both PJ Lane and Rhonda Burchmore first appeared in Dickensian outfits but he soon changed into a snappy suit and she progressively modernised and glamorised her costumes, to end the evening in a short-skirted Santa suit. Along the way they sang a wide range of numbers, from Christmas pieces such as Let it Snow/Sleigh Ride, George Michael’s Last Christmas and Joy to the World, to loosely related pieces such as Get Happy and In My Daughter’s Eyes, and they both slipped in a few ad libs to delight the audience, Burchmore chatting merrily to some of the lucky gentlemen in the front row. Timothy Sexton took on the role of Ebenezer Scrooge but, naturally, the grumpiness was only a thin veneer and his usual good humour added to the evening’s fun. The orchestra and singers lived up to their normal high standards of performance making this not just a terrific evening out for the whole family but a concert of high quality music as well. There are two performances on Saturday, but hurry to get any remaining tickets.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.