HOLLY, ALASKA! – Written by Matt Zambrano and Frank Oden; Directed by Matt Zambrano. Produced by BETC (presented at the Diary Center, 2590 Walnut Street, Boulder) through December 31. Tickets available at 303-444-7238 or thedairy.org. 

I’ve never met Matt Zambrano, but I feel like I know him anyway. Through his creation of the lovely ultra-suburban village of Holly, Alaska and the people who live there, he reveals his own heart, kindness, and gentility. Through his humor and slightly cynical eye on the world, he announces his own humanity and hope. Combine his obvious love of people and theatre with the extra-ordinary comedic talent that is Frank Oden as a writing partner and you’ve got a brand new show with an exceedingly gracious heart and a view of the world I found compelling. If BETC is smart, they will bring this show back year after year to brighten the holidays of all who are lucky enough to find it. 

The show has a heart that beats with the constancy of a Salvation Army bell-ringer. It has a grace and an authenticity of locale that created an instant familiarity to all home town dwellers. With his characters, they created a family of players that we all wanted to know better. We wanted to be in their show. 

Difficulties wrapped around not enough time to rehearse and problems with scheduling the cafegymnatorium of the local school means that the Annual Holly Holiday Spectacular may not take place this year. But this year is more important than most as it is the 120th anniversary of the show; the result of a competition that started that long ago when twin brothers had a falling out. One brother stayed in place and founded Holly; his brother moved 50 miles away and created a town called Ivy. They have been competing ever since. Both towns are vying for the Guinness Book of World Records for the title as the “120th continuous holiday show performed in a town with a population of under 500 in a non-contiguous state in the United States.” (Or something like that!) 

The quartet that was to make up the cast has learned the songs and kinda learned the dances, but there is so much to be done – sets, costumes, props, programs, et al – and no time and people to do it all. But, as you knew they would in the great tradition of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, the show does finally go on. But in the meantime, the audience is treated to all the backstage machinations and maneuvering to hold the cast together and get the show on its feet. The excitement even includes a marauding moose that manages to get the stage door open in an attempt to be the star of the show.  

The music by Frank Oden is catchy with clever lyrics – most funny and some sweet. He has provided music for (almost) Broadway type dancing, solos for each of the performers and country style harmonies. The music has such a familiar air that it feels like, given a little push, you could be up on stage singing with the cast. I’m just not sure what Susannah McLeod, Archer Rosenkrantz and Heidi Carann Snider, in addition to Frank, would think should you be inclined to act on your impulses. 

I’m sorry to say you’ve only got one more week to catch this delightful offering by BETC. Apparently under the newly minted direction of Mark Ragan as Managing Director and Jessica Robblee as Artistic Director. BETC is branching out in locations and types of shows. Shows coming up will take place at the Savoy Event Center in Denver as well as at the Dairy Center and will feature one-person performances, radio comedies and improv. Visit their website to keep up with this fast-moving company. 

A WOW factor of 9!! 

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