About 100 volunteers from many of the churches in the Rim Country presented a 90-minute musical concert last Sunday to the delight of those in attendance.
The brilliant flourishes of musical joy, dancing angels, hyperactive smoke machines, spotlighted wise men, sudsy snow flurries, a singing prophet, cavorting jesters, mad dog guitarists and beams of colored spotlights made three things perfectly clear last Sunday.
Firstly — Payson boasts an amazing lineup of talented musicians, for such an itty bitty town.
Secondly — Payson’s churches have definitely got the Christmas Spirit.
Lastly — That little Carter Chabot is one awesomely serene Christ Child.
All that emerged from the contagiously joyful staging of the Spirit of Christmas, put on by nearly 100 volunteers from most of the churches in town. The volunteers spent two months and $4,000 pulling together for the sixth year a rollicking mix of rock guitars, children’s choirs, kitchy skits, marvelous singing and lovably chaotic dance sequences.
Offered as a brightly wrapped Christmas gift to the community, the script veered only briefly into heavy-handed theology — sometimes sounding more like Easter than Christmas.
However, the crowd that nearly filled the high school auditorium for both shows cheered the humor-tinged pantomime battle between Jesus and Satan just as happily as they oohed and clapped for the careening of the adorable, 5-year-old angels.
The 90-minute performance probably reached its whimsical climax in a happy scent that was apparently intended as the dance of the toys summoned up by a bewildered, dude of an angel trying to demonstrate the true meaning of Christmas to a likeable kid who was supposed to be doing his homework or something.
The exuberant dance sequence mixed shepherds, jesters and guys in Payson High School football jerseys, before some much more beautiful and serious-minded head angels showed up to shut the party down — and haul off the killer cute little sugar plumb fairies, their cheeks gleaming with glitter.
The simple set, adroit use of spotlights, polished staging and headlong momentum bore witness to director Eric Santana’s mastery of the spirit of community theater and the way to get the most from inspired volunteers.
A core of brilliant musicians pulled the whole thing together, including Lisa Smith and Linda Jackson on keyboard, Diana Rushlow on piano, Les Barr on drums — and a four-guitar lineup that could have fronted a high-power rock band, including Michael Stoll, Rick Quigley, Isaac Bradford and Caleb Jackson.
Surprisingly, the vocalists actually rose to the professional polish of the musicians. Singers included Cassie Bradford, Cary Cordell, Jeff Rushlow, Eric Santana, Rachel Smith, Melissa Walden and Pastor Joe Fralkner. The vocalists forsook the calm cadence of the hymnals to rock out to contemporary beats — albeit with a traditional Christmas message.
Backed by the Payson Christian Ministerial Fellowship, the production drew support from most of the Christian churches in town and must have lured a fair number of church goers, since the audience certainly rivaled last year’s 1,800 — which is about 12 percent of Payson’s residents.
Which brings us back to Mister Carter Chabot, all wrapped in swaddling clothes.
Lora Henning and Aaron Bradford dressed the part of Mary and Joseph, then swaddled Carter snugly and walked down the aisle as the show neared its climax, to take their place in the makeshift manger as the shepherds watched, the wise men knelt and the prophets hit the high notes.
Through it all, Carter regarded the world with bemused benevolence, his eyes shining.
For the baby had the Spirit of Christmas — and you could get it just looking at him — even without the dancing angels.