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O’Connell & Co. cast does its best with thin holiday work

Well, the warm and fuzzy season is officially upon us.

I know this because O’Connell & Company has opened its annual December paean to all things Christmas, the sounds, smells, sights, with this year’s stage confection, “Uh-Oh, Here Comes Christmas.” Joey Bucheker directs a dutiful cast of five in this compilation by Ernest Zulia and David Caldwell of excerpts from the saccharine works of Robert Fulghum, most notably his best-selling “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” Additionally, Caldwell has written music and lyrics for several ditties.

Adapters Zulia and Caldwell have chosen 20 scenes from Fulghum’s volumes, most pining for days of yore, the way things were and Christmas past. They move along speedily in O’Connell & Co.’s Park School home, which is all wreathed and green and twinkly, ideal for remembering and to savor “the sweet narcotic of nostalgia,” as one character says.

Mary Kate O’Connell, the company impresario, loves Fulghum’s style - mostly gentle, ultimately peaceful, faith-filled, platitudinous little vignettes that, even when they drag on too long and limp to conclusion, are sincere.

Normally, O’Connell & Co. does these holiday shows well, but “Uh-Oh…” barely survives the night. Warm but ragged, awkward here, listless there, the cast - Corey Bieber, Tim Goehrig, Edith Grossman, Mary Moebius, Michael Starzynski - tries very hard to make something out of not much. Like I said, dutiful.

The Act I opener, “Scrooge,” has some promise that doesn’t return. “Christmas Pageant” is fun and funny. There is a running gag featuring the ubiquitous poinsettia plant; a touching ode to the Salvation Army’s red kettle drive - “Daddy,” a little boy asks, “Is there a Salvation Navy?” - and the boyish Bieber and the poised Grossman sing a surprisingly pretty and hopeful song about the winter solstice.

That’s the plus side. The title tune gets Act II off to a rocky start thanks to some clunky choreography - although lead dancer Goehrig shows flashes of fancy footwork. Lines are twisted and transposed frequently, very evident on “Trick or Treat,” an irritating skit with the usually capable Moebius. Then comes the “Holiday Wedding,” trite and full of ethnic stereotypes. And “The Refrigerator and Confessions,” despite some genuine laughs generated by Moebius and the very necessary Starzynski, generates the night’s worst bit of dialogue: “The best Christmas leftovers are our memories.” For that, and one or two others, Fulghum should get coal in his stocking. “The Juggler” is an imagined “12 Days of Christmas:” sophomoric.

A solemn, candled “Silent Night” sends everyone home. Nice touch. The usual O’Connell & Co. messages of love and peace have been differently delivered.

There could be a bonus in attending, though. No extra fees or taxes can get you a face-lick from Rosie, Mary Kate’s tiny, ever-present pooch. Wet, but like the show, heartfelt.


2 stars

“Uh-Oh, Here Comes Christmas

Where: The Park School, 4625 Harlem Road, Snyder.

When: Through Dec.20

Info: 848-0800,