REVIEW: FIREside Radio Makes Christmas Great Again in Rockin’ Revue

Lindsay Polowczuk, Zachary Pelicano and Fred Cunningham in FIREside Radios “Rockin Christmas Revue.” Photo by Christopher Burkard

BY SANDY STAGGS
DRAMA CRITIC

FIREside Radio, the Upstate’s only radio theatre company, ushered in the yuletide season Friday with its fifth annual “Rockin’ Radio Christmas Revue” at the Younts Center for the Performing Arts.

Directed and hosted by Artistic Director Zachary Pelicano, this year’s festivities featured more live music and less comedy sketches than in past shows, but there were plenty of gags to tickle the funny bone.

Script writers Zachary and wife, Mackensie, moved the radio broadcast “outdoors” to a Christmas tree farm and launched a game show entitled “Whose Christmas is Worse?” and a clever “if these studio walls could talk” segment about the historic (and most unlikely) collaboration in holiday music history: Bing Crosby and glam rocker David Bowie (with Zachary as Crosby and little brother Lucas, who was also the drummer in the live band) as Bowie in “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth.”

WSPA Channel 7 News anchor Fred Cunningham, clad in a tuxedo, returned to the Younts stage as the announcer, after appearing in last season’s “The Christmas Story.”

The rock quartet with Zachary on electric guitar, frequent Fire Theatre music director Ruth McDaniel on piano and Paul Schneider on bass, delved into some classic rock renditions of Elvis Presley’s “Santa Claus is Back in Town” and his bluesy  “Merry Christmas, Baby,” though it could have easily have been in the style of Otis Redding’s or Bruce Springsteen’s covers.

Vocally, the highlight was indeed  Lindsay Polowczuk’s “Winter Wonderland”, the now-definitive standard as recorded by The Eurhythmics replete with the prologue.

And then the whole ensemble capped off the evening with their imagined re-recording of the Bob Geldof/Band Aid production of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” with a different coterie of stars including Cindi Lauper and Zachary valiantly in the Bono role. This song was an especially delectable treat because this holiday anthem on world hunger is rarely performed live today. It’s on the radio every year, but one almost never sees this composition in local holiday shows.

The cast was comprised of FIRE Theatre regulars such as Dan Wilkie, Nancy Burkard, Jonathan Marler, Tracy Bogs, Joseph Bogs, Shawn Shumaker and Andy Lecture.

Matthew Polowczuk was audio and recording engineer, Regan Pelicano was on lighting and Stacey Hawks served as costumer.

A digital recording of this show is available HERE. And the next FIREside radio play will be in February 2017 with the third and final installment of the company’s Arthurian trilogy, “Merlin’s Dream: The Final Chapter.”  

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