Posted in family, family affair, holiday event, holiday fare, holiday show, theater lovers

Kid friendly

Exposing our children (or grandchildren) to theater and dance could really be a year-round endeavor. Nonetheless, many of us choose to show them the grand repertories of kid-friendly shows over the holidays.

NYCB is not alone in mounting a lavish Nutcracker from November through December, but it is a go-to for lots of parents. ABT has yet to release dates for its Nutcracker spectacle, another rousing destination for families. (Those of you in New Jersey can enjoy the American Repertory Ballet’s version.)

Another newer tradition for some people is Peter & The Wolf at the Guggenheim’s Works & Process series which kicks off in early December.Brad Lubman leads Ensemble Signal in Sergei Prokofiev’s score.  Renowned fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi narrates, directs, designs the set and costumes. Mizrahi’s special cast performs choreography by John Heginbotham, at which the familiar characters come to life in the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Peter B. Lewis Theater for ten performances.

Other holiday specials are all around the town. One, at the Axis Theatre, is from the Grimm canon and starts on December 2nd. Seven in One Blow, or the Brave Little Kid written and directed by Randy Sharp is in its 15th year of production.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/87891224″>Axis Company (a Meet the Theatre film)</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/tdf”>Theatre Development Fund (tdf)</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Children’s theater gets the year-long treatment at The New Victory Theater. For November in their New 42nd Street studios, the company hosts something called Paper Dreams for 2-5 year olds, and on the mainstage for an older crowd, a magic show, Jason Bishop: Straight Up Magic. New Victory productions will charm adults as much as they do  youngsters.

Symphony Space on the upper west side has a series called Just Kidding that offers all-year programming for the younger crowd. There are hootenanies and game shows, puppets, plays and all manner of story-telling for them to enjoy almost every week. For the holidays, they have Just Kidding: National Dance Institute: The Celebration Team! with 100 kids dancing on November 19th and  Puppetkabob: The Snowflake Man on December 17th among other programs. November 13th brings the LIVE Trivia show for the whole family, called the Big Family Quiz Thing.

Also check out the Theater at the 14th Y for children’s fare. This December, for a limited run, there’s Hanna and the Moonlit Dress, based on the beloved Israeli book Hanna’s Sabbath Dress by Itzhak Schweiger-Dmi’el and is adapted for the stage by Ronit Muszkatblit and Yoav Gal.

There’s so much holiday fare for you and your children but we share only a select few things here. 

Posted in A Civil War Christmas, Alice Ripley, Civil War, holiday fare, music and dance in a play, Paula Vogel

A Holiday At War In "A Civil War Christmas"

War makes a mockery of the holiday spirit.

This is exactly what comes to mind as “A Civil War Christmas,” at the New York Theatre Workshop through December 30th, begins to tell its story of the last Christmas eve of the Civil War.

Playwright Paula Vogel may have intended it to be a history lesson, but “A Civil War Christmas,” is  in fact a mixture of pageant– in the tradition of the season,– minstrel show and music hall folly.

A wartime Christmas is most often wistful and nostalgic. The Civil War with its outsized carnage was especially harrowing. The country divided as it was was ground down and in a very low place. Christmas 1864 was anything but festive.  Much of “A Civil War Christmas,” seems to trivialize its subject.

Sean Allan Krill, Sumaya Bouhbal, Antwayn Hopper, Bob Stillman,  Rachel Spencer Hewitt, and Alice Ripley in Paula Vogel’s “A Civil War Christmas.” Photo by Carol Rosegg. 

President Abe Lincoln (Bob Stillman) is forgetful and neglectful of his own safety, cartoonishly evading his security detail (Sean Allan Krill as Mr. Lamon.) The conspirators, who history has shown eventually succeeded in their assassination– John Wilkes Booth (Sean Allan Krill, again), John Surratt (Chris Henry), and Lewis Payne (Alice Ripley)– are bumbling whiners.As the First Lady, Mary Todd Lincoln (Alice Ripley– everyone does multiple duty in this cast), comes across as a kind, erratic and silly woman.

Alice Ripley, Jonathan-David, Sean Allan Krill in in Paula Vogel’s “A Civil War Christmas.” Photo by Carol Rosegg.

There are notable exceptions to this paint-by-numbers approach to characterization in “A Civil War Christmas,” of course.

The well-developed and astutely portrayed Decatur Bronson (K. Todd Freeman), fuelled by his fury at the Confederates who nabbed his wife, Rose (Amber Iman) off their porch, is valiant. Freeman’s performance is strong and moving. His Sgt. Bronson, a Black soldier in the Union Army, has a fierce oft-sung mantra, “Take No Prisoners” in keeping with his nature.  Amber Iman lends credence to her roles as Rose, and as a mother, Hannah, searching for her little girl, Jessa (Sumaya Boulbah.)

K. Todd Freeman as Sgt Decatur Bronon with Amber Iman as his wife Rose  in  Paula Vogel’s  “A Civil War Christmas.” Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Songs,  (musical direction by Andrew Resnick, with supervision & arrangements by Daryl Waters, and incidental music also by Waters,) some traditional like the Negro hymn to freedom, “Follow The Drinking Gourd,” some original and others originally built on Yuletide standards, and dance move the narrative along.

Working on a bare, wood-planked stage, the actors pluck props, instruments, and costumes out of the open “closet” that runs along the side. Despite the wealth of talent on display, — most of the cast not only act, sing and dance, but also play a fiddle or guitar or drum– all admirably — and assisted by director Tina Landau, “A Civil War Christmas” feels amateurish. It is a sincere effort but unfortunately, “A Civil War Christmas” never delivers on its promising and heartfelt concept.

For more information about “A Civil War Christmas,” please visit http://www.nytw.org/.

Posted in A Christmas Story, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, from a 1983 film, from a cult classic, holiday fare, musical, musical comedy

Make a wish: A Christmas Story…

‘Tis the season for wishing and presents. 

Here’s a wish for you: gift yourself “A Christmas Story: The Musical” before it ends its season at  The Lunt-Fontaine Theatre on December 30th.
In  “A Christmas Story: The Musical,” Jean Shepherd (Dan Lauria) narrates a memory from childhood in which Ralphie (Johnny Rabe) is so desperate to get a “Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun” that his 
pleas tie his tongue.
Photo by Carol Rosegg. Johnny Rabe as Ralphie, Zac Ballard as his brother Randy and Erin Dilly as their mother.

 
His Mother (Erin Dilly) laughs off his Christmas wish with a “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out,” a sentiment that is reprised in the taunt his teacher Miss Shields (Caroline O’Connor) delivers in one of Ralphie’s many reveries.
In that same Fantasy scene, the youngest little scene-stealer in tapshoes, Luke Spring (age 9) out taps  his elders, including the wonderful Caroline O’Connor. In fact, the prodigious talent on stage in “A Christmas Story: The Musical” comes in all sizes and ages. And Warren Carlyle’s brilliant choreography adds sparkle at every turn to “A Christmas Story: The Musical.”

Luke Spring and Caroline O’Connor in a scene called “Fantasy 1930s Speakeasy.” Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Ralphie’s father, The Old Man (John Bolton), cursing a gibberish-load, harbors a wish of his own. His “Major Award” from a crossword contest inspires one of the most memorable of many terrific dance sequences in “A Christmas Story: The Musical.”


The Old Man (John Bolton) with his “Major Award.” Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Newcomers  Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (music and lyrics) with Joseph Robinette (book) retooled the 1983 film “A Christmas Story” by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown and Bob Clark and Shepherd’s book “In God We Trust All Others Pay Cash” to give Broadway this generous holiday gift.
Dan Lauria as Jean Shepherd in a photo by Carol Rosegg.

The music in “A Christmas Story: The Musical” is varied and interesting with, just for example a lovely “What a Mother Does” (sung by the lovely Erin Dilly) balanced by the rousing ensemble piece “Ralphie To The Rescue.”

Johnny Rabe as Ralphie. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
In a superb cast, each with their own moments in which to shine, John Bolton is the topper on the tree. He is a very funny and gifted man. 
Kristen, the kindergartner in the next seat, enjoyed “A Christmas Story: The Musical” as did her dad. “A Christmas Story: The Musical” has more grit and glory than the usual children’s play. Adults and tykes alike will have a rollicking good time.
For more information about “A Christmas Story: The Musical,” please visit http://achristmasstorythemusical.com/.