It is that time of year when the bustle of the holiday season is upon us and we all have a list of “things to do” before the holidays arrive. It is a time of year when we can all use a bit of holiday cheer, and relax, sit back and have a good laugh. That is exactly what Act II Playhouse does with their show Making Spirits Bright, and they do this well. Making Spirits Bright is a show that makes audiences laugh as the cast of talented actors provide a lighthearted look at the holidays that everyone will enjoy.  

Making Spirits Bright, under the direction of Mary Carpenter, is a comedy cabaret that melds humor and holiday spirit into a refreshing original production. The entire cast shines throughout the production and they get the entire audience in the holiday spirit by starting with a hilarious medley of songs that pay homage to some holiday tunes that have not exactly made it into our holiday radio lexicon. This holiday cabaret utilizes music, dancing and improv to create a joyful holiday comedic treat.  In addition, the set, designed by Maura Roche, adds a layer of brightness and warmth and helps the audience get in the holiday spirit.

Over the course of approximately seventy minutes, this quintet of players (Tony Braithwaite, Howie Brown, Sonny Leo, Will Dennis and Anne Wechsler) use their versatile talents to entertain the audience through song, dance and improvisation. The entire show was outstanding, so I will highlight some of the best moments of the show.  Tony Braithwaite shines in this show, and as much as I enjoyed him throughout the entire show, his monologue of David Sedaris’s “Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol” is hysterically funny and may be my favorite piece he performs in the show. Sonny Leo provides musical accompaniment throughout the production and adds to the humor in the montage of worst holiday songs, but the highlight for me was seeing Leo tap dance to “I Love a Piano.” This particular song showcases Leo’s talent. Howie Brown amuses audiences with his highly emotive and “very Italian” rendition of “Dominic the Donkey.” Will Dennis and Anne Wechsler remind us of the sentimental side of the holidays with their vignette of skits about a couple exchanging holiday gifts as they progress through their relationship and life. Dennis and Wechsler give these skits energy and warmth. There is one more thing I want to mention about this production. Over the years, I have seen Braithwaite excel during portions of shows that include improvisation, this show is no exception, his comedic timing and laser quick wit shine. However, during this production, Brown, Dennis and Wechsler join him in this comedic art, and they all create a comic masterpiece that will leave audiences in stiches and bring a cheery holiday mood out of even the Grinch among us.

Making Spirits Bright runs at Act II Playhouse until January 3, 2015. For more information and tickets visit their website at or call the box office at 215-654-0200.

Photo Credit: Bill D'Agostino

Final Thought: Making Spirits Bright at Act II Playhouse is a show that is sure to brighten your holidays. With this energetic and zealous cast, audiences are sure to have an uproarious evening of a laugh a minute entertainment. If you do not have tickets I highly recommend getting them soon because this is one production that should not be missed this holiday season. 

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