Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Theater review: Your inner-child will rock out to Casa Manana’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
Prepare to boogie along with these toe-tappers.
FORT WORTH Molly and her mother set off on an adventure to rediscover the joyous and cheerful spirit of Christmas after Molly’s father must be away at war for the holiday. Much of the value contained in this musical production is derived from its ability to involve and entertain its audience. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, as presented by Casa Mañana Theatre in Fort Worth, did an exceptionally good job at energizing and intriguing the audience. With a cast of both adult and children actors, you will find yourself immersed in a world of holiday wonder. This production utilized mesmerizing songs, exceptional dances, colorful costumes, sound/music design, and an ensemble cast that will certainly leave you and the family singing along with joy.
Molly, played by young actress Sara Grace Prejean, and her mother, played by Mary Gilbreath Grim, had great chemistry together. The two actresses made quite the duo as their interactions were heartfelt and warm, especially towards the end of the show when the two shared a touching moment reading an end of day Christmas story by the fireplace. Grim’s vocal quality when speaking to Molly was always soft and nurturing. The frustration and struggles of a mother during the holidays really paid off in Grim’s performance of “Where Are You Christmas.” Molly always remained in character, and never showed signs of nervousness or stage fright, let alone the intimidation of working with well-rounded professional actors, singers, and dancers.
The set design for ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas was a large contributor in the creation of the seasonal mood of the show. The play was able to create several scene locations by rolling on and off small set pieces, often unifying into a larger set piece. For instance, during the ice skating dance number, crew members rolled in two halves of a beautiful, snow-glazed bridge that connected to one another near center stage. I really enjoyed the use of theatre snow used throughout the production to accentuate the time of year as well. The use of snow and other theatrical conventions, such as a frozen pond of New York City, added to the magical nature of the production. An element that the younger audience members found themselves quite involved in. Overall, I found that the entire cast held a strong, quality commitment to their characters.
Many of the actors in this production had the challenge of portraying multiple roles, trying to make each one unique from the others. At one point, Salvation Army Santa, one of many parts played by actor Maurice Johnson, lightly acknowledged some of the more enthusiastic audience members by waving his bell towards them and smiling while continuing the scene at hand. Two other characters who stood out were Jingle, played by Avery Presson, and Jangle, played by Lauren Weik. The two actors had great comedic timing in their jokes as they followed Molly around to ensure that she would have the “best Christmas Eve ever.” One instance was as they comically revealed the existence of a few other reindeer besides Rudolph and the others we know from the classic song. This duo did very well keeping up the overall rhythm of the show while sprucing up Molly’s day.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas is a musical, so come prepared to sing along! Crisp choreography, fine direction, and synchronized stage movements were performed in tandem with a handful of both original and classic Christmas songs. The music is sure to leave you tapping your feet to the rhythm. The production features many Christmas hits such as “All I Want for Christmas is You,” “Jingle Bells,” and “Where are You Christmas?” Each song is performed exceptionally well vocally. I must commend the hard work that the Children’s Chorus put into their numbers. Stretch, played by actor Jonathan Bragg, led the ensemble cast in the “Jingle, Jangle” number. He was interesting to watch due in part to his well-timed facial expressions used in lineation with sharp precise steps, taps, and turns. No Christmas is complete without the nostalgia of hearing your favorite tunes sung by such a group of carolers, a handful of well-polished a cappella singers, and dancing a jig or two. All of which proved to be valuable assets to a well-produced play.
So, despite the warm weather in Texas, I found myself quickly infected with the Christmas spirit at Casa Mañana Theatre, bringing out my inner-child. I honestly enjoyed the upbeat pace of the production along with the classic musical numbers, which had me shoulder-bumping along. This was a well-produced show that the whole family can enjoy. You and your family will leave the show looking to continue the experience with some holiday tunes in the car or even a box of your favorite Christmas cookies.
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