Theatre Information

Richmond Triangle Players It’s a Fabulous Life

By • Nov 24th, 2013 • Category: Reviews, Virginia
It’s a Fabulous Life
Richmond Triangle Players: (Info) (Web)
Richmond Triangle Players Theatre, Richmond, VA
Through December 14th
2:00 with intermission
$18-$30 (Plus Fees)
Reviewed November 23rd, 2013

One of the hardest things about being a reviewer in the Richmond area is that not only is there such a diversity of theatrical offerings, but there is also such a diversity of theaters. This makes it hard when comparing big theaters with small theaters and productions with big budgets versus those that are operating on a shoestring.

By what standard should I review Richmond Triangle Players’ production of It’s a Fabulous Life? In keeping with its holiday theme, few people would suggest that “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” deserves an Emmy for best animation or “It’s a Wonderful Life” deserves an Academy Award for best special effects. Yet millions of people love them and look forward to seeing them each year.

This production meets that standard 100%. Chris Hester is absolutely charming as the main character, Joe, who is producing the local theater group, the Lavender Players, annual Christmas show and becomes disillusioned with his life as a gay man (he wishes he’d never been born…gay). Enter an angel, Arthur, played with charm and warmth by Doug Schneider. Arthur is the recently departed leader of the Lavender Players, and now he wants to help Joe so he can earn a new set of wings (he wishes to trade in his white ones for Lavender ones, since no one should wear white after Labor Day).

It is this kind of shtick and campiness that Triangle Players always carries out best. The entire show is a send up of every Christmas show, popular musical and of RTP itself. It is lighthearted fun, with a poignant message (Joe accepts the fact that he was born gay) and a touch of holiday cheer (who doesn’t smile at a show within the show about Randolph the gay reindeer).

As one “older” woman in line said as I was standing in line at the bar (for a diet coke!) “that Chris Hester is just so darn cute.” Picture Charlie Brown if he was a gay adult. On the night I reviewed, Hester was nursing some vocal strain; but what he lacked in volume and power, he made up for in commitment to character, energy and just that “gosh shucks” kind of likeability.

Other performances of note include Dan Cimo as the bitchy drag queen Carlo/Carlotta who is one part Liza and one part Joan Crawford (in a show filled with over-the-top performances, his reached new heights) and Daniel Braumstein as a stage hand turned over enthusiastic understudy. Craig Smith had one of the more heartwarming and serious songs, An Angel of My Own, and Ramon Licairic’s was masterful in his vocals with Hester as Joe’s boyfriend, Luis.

My greatest treat, however, came in the form of an early Christmas present. I said last year when I saw Karla Brown sing briefly in Before it Hits Home that I really wanted to see her in a musical, and boy was it worth the wait. She took me to church and back with her soulful and powerful vocals.

It is so tempting to say It’s a Fabulous Life was “fabulous” but I can’t take the easy road. Let me just say, it is pleasant PG holiday entertainment (and with RTP’s comfortable chairs with ample leg room, it sure beats watching some holiday reruns on TV.)

Photo Gallery

Joe (Chris Hester) with his guardian angel Arthur (Doug Schneider) Angela (Karla Brown, center) and her angels choir
Joe (Chris Hester) with his guardian angel Arthur (Doug Schneider)
Angela (Karla Brown, center) and her angels choir
Carlotta (Dan Cimo) cavorts with a tropical Santa
Carlotta (Dan Cimo) cavorts with a tropical Santa

Photos by John MacLellan

The Cast

  • Joe: Chris Hester
  • Angela: Karla Brown
  • Carolo/Carlotta: Dan Cimo
  • Tim: Keydron Dunn
  • Bruce: Thomas E. Nowlin
  • Gabe: Stevie Rice
  • Frank: Craig Smith
  • Steve: Daniel Braunstein
  • Luis: Ramón Licairac
  • Dale: Xander Wong
  • Arthur: Doug Schneider

The Crew

  • Director: Keith Fitzgerald
  • Musical Director: Kim Fox
  • Choreographer: Marisa Guida
  • Assistant Director: Keith Fitzgerald
  • Stage Manager: Sue Howells
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Samantha Ray
  • Set Designer: Alex Ginder
  • Lighting Design: David White
  • Costume Design: Alex Valentin
  • Percussion: Steve Raybould
  • Managing Director: Philip Crosby
  • Artistic Director: John Knapp

Disclaimer: Richmond Triangle Players provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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