The Christmas Express Delivers a Perfect Holiday Treat
There’s a reason that Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas has become an enormous success in recent years. While dismissed as frothy by some, the movies capture what most treasure about the holiday season. Themes of love, hope, and faith run through each storyline and inspire so much of what makes this time of year so special. In a world that is increasingly fractured, holiday stories redeem our sense of humanity and shared experience.
With its 2022 holiday offering, The Christmas Express, all for One perfectly captures that spirit with a story that will make you laugh but will also provide a tear or two along the way. Set in the 1950s, in a town that time seems to have forgotten, the residents of Holly, Anywhere USA have lost all hope for a future that provides joy and laughter. Going through the motions and almost ignoring Christmas, which is only two days away, the characters of The Christmas Express – some more than others – try to embrace the season while seeing little reason for cheer beyond that. One character in particular – the prickly Hilda – seems determined to see the bleakest possible outcome in all instances. In one startling example, she seems to delight in a revelation which is counter to the wishes of both the other characters and the audience.
But it is her reticence and determination to not find joy in the holiday which prevents the story from becoming saccharine. It would be easy to see the underlying message of The Christmas Express as overly sentimental, but Hilda provides such grounding that even the most skeptical audience has to root against her cynicism. It seems obvious that Hilda’s resistance is setting the audience up for a happy ending, but when that ending comes, it is more touching and tear-inducing than celebratory.
With their programming, all for One celebrates faith-based performances, but what makes their shows so special is that they do not limit themselves to an audience for the most devout. Audiences of all or even no religious persuasion can find joy and uplifting messages in these stories, and faith is portrayed here as something more than a faith in a higher being. Instead it’s faith in the future, faith in a better day, faith in our fellow human beings. The show, which runs around two hours, flies by thanks to crackling dialogue delivered perfectly by a terrific ensemble. Each brings humor and empathy to their roles with Jen Netting (as Hilda), Dennis Nichols, and Steven Manning particularly delivering the goods. The Christmas Express is a show that will infuse even the most resistant with the Christmas spirit, and it provides the perfect first treat for the season.
The Christmas Express runs through November 20, with evening performances on Friday and Saturday and matinees on Sunday. Visit artstix.org for tickets.