It wouldn’t be Christmas in Adelaide without the perennial delight of the Christmas Proms, and 2013 proved to deliver a healthy dosage of the festive spirit. For those new to the Proms, the concept derives from the British “promenade concert”, which give audiences members the opportunity to sing along with their favourite tunes. What better songs to bring about joy and merriment than Christmas Carols?
Each rendition of the Christmas Proms features an ensemble of versatile and prolific vocal artists; this year the stage of the Adelaide Festival Centre was graced with the presence of Chelsea Gibb (musical productions of King and I, Anything Goes, TV series The Lost World, All Saints) and Mitchell Butel (musicals The Mikado, Grease, South Pacific). Conductor and freelance composer, the charismatic Timothy Sexton, makes his return, and hosts the evening with banter and cheer. The theme of the 2013 Proms are Broadway hits (adorning the subtitle “Christmas on 42nd Street”), with the program featured a variety of musical and stage tunes that brought that Festival Centre to life. Sexton’s own Adelaide Art Orchestra (AdAO) feature for the performance, and provide a professional, dynamic and uplifting concert.
There is nothing better than Christmas Carols sung well, and the Christmas Proms are certainly that. With the timely raising of the house lights, the audience members are cued to sing along with the most well known carols, thankfully also accompanied by Gibb and Butel (making some of us feel that little bit better about our own lack of vocal talent). Gibb is an utter delight, effortlessly belting out carols and pieces with silky smooth vocals. Butel’s charm is undeniable, and his impressive musical expertise is something to behold during There is Nothing Like a Dame, from the award-winning musical South Pacific (coming to Adelaide from the end of December).
Cheeky clowns Boppa (Alan Holy) and Moose (Michael Newbold) are a wonderful, hilarious foil to the formalness of the carols. Lighting designer Phil Haddy and the design team are to be applauded for transforming the stage into a luminous Christmas winter wonderland, with some fantastic presentations that so perfectly accompanied the yuletide joy brought by Gibbs, Butel, Sexton and the AdAO.
Christmas Proms are truly something Adelaideans should relish and treasure, and experience annually. With the hustle and bustle of the silly season, it is all too easy to be swept away from the festive spirit; there’s nothing like this fantastic and endlessly fun production to bring back that merriment and remind us of why we spent our childhoods counting down to December.
If you missed out this year, I urge you to pencil Christmas Proms in to your diaries for 2014.
Reviewed by Nathan Giaccio
Venue: Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: 13 & 14 December 2013
Duration: 2 hours