LOOKING FOR CHRISTMAS, the new Clint Black musical at The Old Globe is like a cup of hot cocoa on a cold day (under 70 is cold in San Diego), or that first bite of your favorite holiday confection. It’s sweet, comforting, and with the addition of songs from Clint Black’s holiday album, it’s a little bit country as well.
The main focus of the story is Mike Randolf (Aaron C. Finley) an Army medic stationed in Afghanistan with his best friend Douglas Miller (DeLeon Dallas). Both are excited to complete their last patrol and head home with the rest of their unit in time for the holiday. Mike’s wife Jessie (Liana Hunt), daughter Ellie (Kaylin Hedges), and Doug’s wife Alissa (Syndee Winters) are all anxiously waiting back home. Ellie and her friends are in the holiday pageant, and Ellie is excited to celebrate with her Father.
The homecoming doesn’t happen quite as planned, and everyone has to grapple with the ramifications of what happened in Afghanistan while the kids all enthusiastically plan for the upcoming holiday.
Finley’s Mike is warm and relatable, even when he is struggling to adjust back home. His lighthearted humor plays well with Hedges energy as his enthusiastic and excitable daughter Ellie. He and Hunt make for a loving married couple and have a sweet chemistry, even when singing to each other via Facetime on their cell phones.
Dallas is excellent as Doug, who brings good humor and sensitivity to his role. He especially shines near the end of the show in a moment that seemed to reduce half of the audience to tears. Winters, as his wife Alissa is effecting as his long patient wife waiting for him to come home. She has a lovely and soulful voice that really shines in her songs.
The talented kids of the cast add a bit of zing to all the sweet sentiment. Their precociousness and straight joy for the season, Santa, and the pageant cut through the adult introspection to remind them that everything can be solved if you just come to the pageant! Even in this world where love and Santa can conquer all, the kids still despair for their parent’s ability to keep up with them, with one kid even lamenting that her mom “doesn’t even know how to use Snapchat.”
The songs by country superstar Clint Black are well incorporated and make for some wonderful moments in the show. While most are from his 1996 holiday album “Looking for Christmas” that the show is named for, he did write four new songs as well. Regardless if you love country or not, the songs are melodic and range from romantic to introspective, to fun with the kids in a last minute shopping song.
The number of songs could be edited, as there are a lot of them over the span of the show and some of that time could be given to a bit more character depth. There is a lot of plot and character ground to cover, some characters feel underwritten, and some major plots are a bit too easily resolved.
The band led by Musical Director Matt Hinkley are excellent, and they keep a little of the country twang in the songs. Cute costumes by Charlotte Devaux, a welcoming set by Sean Fanning, and lighting by Rui Rita, all fit to complement each other and this story.
LOOKING FOR CHRISTMAS is not for those who look at things with a cynical view, who roll their eyes at Hallmark holiday movies, or who have hearts in need to grow three sizes in a day (the Grinch is next door if you need that one). Instead, it’s an almost retro and nostalgic feeling show that celebrates family, friendship, and the daily sacrifice the troops and their families endure. It is a feel good musical where no matter what, love and family will triumph any and all obstacles.
LOOKING FOR CHRISTMAS is a 90 minute show without an intermission. Playing through December 31st at the Old Globe, please go to www.oldglobe.org for show time and ticket information.