‘Holly Jolly Follies’ delivers Christmas gifts

A review of CROW's 2022 production

Dec. 2, 2022 — With every passing day from Halloween through Thanksgiving, commercial establishments put on red and green wardrobes to announce must-have gifts for the richest holiday of the year. Trees are decorated with ornaments and strings of lights. Familiar music is piped from speakers everywhere. TV puts on programs about all those “Wonderful Lives” in celluloid. And snowflakes fall.

Suddenly it’s the first weekend in December. Surely, you sigh, it’s too early for Christmas. Then: Crash Bam Alacazam! Along comes “The 2022 Holly Jolly Follies,” and before you know it, you jump for joy, full of Christmas spirit.

The “Holly Jolly Follies” is the annual Christmas variety show in Florence, on the grand stage at the Florence Events Center Dec. 2, 3 and 4.

As the pandemic didn’t do much for entertainment over the past couple of years, it surely put a damper on this beloved community show. Happy to say it’s back, full of vim and vigor, Dancer, Prancer, Donner and Blitzen. All right, no reindeer, except dancers, herds of dancers, and in the words of Cecil B. DeMille, a cast of thousands: men, women, girls and boys, and musicians, live and recorded, and everyone gets to sing and dance and crack wise.

Chaotic as it sounds, this show has a theme. Titled “The Perfect Gift,” the show contains a series of sketches illustrating intangible perfect gifts, the sort that outlasts baubles, bangles and bright shiny beads. Perfect gifts include: Time, Kindness, Giving, Pets, Creativity, Laughter, Friendship and Love.

For example, the gift of Time is illustrated in a sketch where a busy young woman makes time to visit her aging grandmother, to chat with her, and learn to make her famous apple pie. The gift of Laughter involves a girl and her work-weary dad playing dress up.

The sketches are interspersed with songs, solos, duets and a gospel quartet; guitar and trumpet solos and a trio of pianos titled “The Battle of 264 Keys.” There are a plethora of dances including ballet, hip hop, tap, modern interpretive, belly, and the extraordinary Flight Dance Team. There is even an acrobatic aerialist high above the stage snaking through a large hoop during the song.

What’s Christmas without elves? Prancing through the acts are eight elves, including Elfis, a swivel-hipped rock and roller. The elves prattle and chatter and introduce the sketches. Santa also helps identify the sketches when he ho-ho-ho’s on stage and points to an illuminated sign above the audience that identifies the name of the respective gift.

The gift of Pets is followed by “Meow Mix,” an outrageous, hilarious version of “Cats,” the infamous Broadway musical. “Meow Mix” features the Tutu Dads, four burly men in tutus, cat ears and cat tails, and one burly dog man chasing the cats. The Tutu Dads have become a Florence fixture.

Applause goes to the huge cast and crew for ginning up the Christmas spirit. There are too many actors to name here, but credit must be given to the writers of this show, Rose Ellen Jacobson and Melanie Heard, who also directs the show. Heard is Jacobson’s daughter, and Heard’s young daughter, Sabrina Heard, plays Ruby Elf in this show. Theater is a family affair, either by blood or by passion.

“The 2022 Holly Jolly Follies” is presented by CROW (Children’s Repertory of Oregon Workshops). Heard is head CROW, having conceived the troupe that has produced excellent theater in Florence. The CROW family grows bigger all the time as children and adults fall in love with the performing arts and thereby receive the perfect gift that will sustain them through hardships and pandemics. Merry Christmas, one and all!

For more information, visit www.crowkids.com.

“Holly Jolly Follies” plays at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 2 and 3, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 4, at the Florence Events Center. Admission is $18 for adults and $12 for youths. Tickets can be purchased at the box office, 715 Quince St., by calling 541-997-1994 or going to eventcenter.org.