Theatre Horizon's musical revue Voices of Christmas engages in no rockin' around the Christmas tree.
It doesn't rock anything, really, jingle bells or otherwise. There's a little bit of John Lennon ("Happy Xmas, War Is Over"), and some Elvis Costello by way of Nick Lowe ("What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding"), but generally, this is a low-key affair that believes home is where the heart is, and makes a convincing case.
For 90 minutes, this young, earnest cast - Carl Clemons-Hopkins, Caroline Dooner, Maggie Lakis, and Ben Michael - alternate between songs about the holidays, or those that conjure up our best holiday associations, and brief monologues brimming with personal reflection. The show, originally created by the now-defunct Seattle Group Theatre in 1981, changes shape with each production. Its initial goal was to represent holiday diversity, but in director Matthew Decker's hands, with assistance by music director Jamison Foreman, it's less about multicultural experiences than emotional ones.
The sources chosen here cover a wide range of material, from Kander and Ebb's 2010 musical The Scottsboro Boys ("Go Back Home," sung by Clemons-Hopkins) to "My Lonely Christmas," Tamsin Oxford's 2010 Daily Mail essay about getting dumped and choosing to spend the holidays alone in Vienna (retold by Lakis). Of course, it's not all about seasonal depression, and there are also more traditional inclusions. But that mix of the expected and unexpectedly pertinent keeps an audience's attention a whole lot better than running down the same holiday hit parade currently hogging the airwaves or doing its subliminal duty in every retail venue.
At first, the quartet of actors, on Maura Roche's woodsy living room set, are too tentative to truly sell the homey comforts of their material. Foreman occasionally ventures away from his keyboard to provide a much-needed jolt of charisma, but among the rest of the cast, the women outperform their male counterparts, who, more than once, wander over the river and through the woods on their way to a note. And yet, perhaps because they each offer a monologue about a personal holiday memory, they still provide a genuine sense of openness.