Clay Aiken makes “Joyful Noise” in Wallingford

Allison Corneau

Christmas cheer came to the area early with Clay Aiken’s “Joyful Noise” tour, appearing at Wallingford’s Chevrolet Theatre for the second year in a row. Last Saturday’s performance, attended by approximately 3,500 fans, was part of Aiken’s 36-city holiday tour that kicked off in early November and will continue through the end of this month.

Wallingford’s first taste of the holiday show came by way of Michael W. Smith’s “Christmastime,” which featured Aiken crooning, clad in pristine white suit, backed by twelve members of the Southington Community Theatre. As the show progressed, fans witnessed Aiken’s interpretation of a Christmas miracle-through a series of vignettes he penned interlaced with selections from his 2004 “Merry Christmas With Love” album.

The story is rather simple: a middle-aged widow who lost the feeling of Christmas with her husband gone and son grown turns to a neighborhood youngster to lift her spirits and offer camaraderie during the winter season. It is certainly not difficult to guess how this story ends, but the true enjoyment in the performance comes from appreciating how Aiken and company succeed in making a traditional premise unique. Although he conceptualized the production, the singer often remains out of the spotlight, assuming a ‘guardian angel’ role, allowing the widow Beverly (Greenwich native Alison Lawrence, Aiken’s high school choir teacher) and precocious young Tommy (North Carolinian Gregory Ellis) to share their Christmas tale.

The theatrics are laid on rather thick during “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” when Australian brother-sister duo Adam and Patricia Kent waltz to a backing of Aiken’s vocals, but the requisite schmaltz gives way mid-song to the real reason fans were in attendance that evening: Aiken’s powerfully serene and quite impressive range. Yes, that kid’s got some pipes, even though he appeared to be slightly hesitant and vocally reserved, as if perhaps nursing a cold. Even so, fans consistently hung on his every note.

Act one’s standout was undoubtedly the closing vignette, when Beverly reunites with her family in a scene that culminates with Aiken wowing the crowd with his version of the Kenny Loggins tune “Celebrate Me Home.” Again backed by the Southington group, Aiken is joined by the rest of his company – including a too-thin Santa Claus who must have adhered to the Zone diet in his off-time – amid a festive falling snow, for the ballad stressing the importance of family.

The performance’s second half was far more religious, set during a church service, and offered Aiken’s take on holiday classics including a melody of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The act relied heavily on narration by young Ellis, who often delivered his key lines too quickly, only to be lost on the audience, even just a few rows away. The blas