Written and directed by Michael Schloegl
Vital Children's Theatre
The young tots in the audience were delighted by this mildly charming children's musical, which lacks the cleverness and originality to hold much charm for adults but has all the elements aimed to please the 6-and-under set: adorably silly costumes, familiar and peppy songs, and actors who invite audience participation.
The story, by Michael Schloegl, is simple almost to the point of nonexistence. An anthropomorphized family of mice live in an attic above a "real" family, and their only child, little Chris mouse, watches through the floor peephole with wonderment at the Christmas preparations going on down below. Mama and Papa mouse won't let him visit (because he's too little to brave the dangers of the family cat, as they do when they go on their daily forays for the leftover food they live on), and can't explain any of it to him because they're too caught up in mouse concerns to worry about what humans do. Chris manages to figure out what Christmas is all about, and bring the spirit of it to his own family, by sneaking downstairs one night and encountering a certain man in a jolly red suit. He returns with stockings and tinsel and boundless yuletide joy.
The show was well-directed (by writer Schloegl) and well-acted, by J.T. Patton as Chris mouse, Alexis Adair as Mama mouse, and Todd Gordon as a particularly funny and engaging Papa mouse. The actors managed their singing and dancing duties serviceably. Unfortunately, the choreography was somewhat lifeless and uninteresting, and the songs tended to be ill-suited to the plot and therefore detrimental to the continuity and consistency of the story. Most were Christmas standards, such as "Jingle Bells" and "Winter Wonderland," with lyrics unchanged (and, in fact, singing done over recordings with their own vocals). One was changed slightly to suit the story ("White Christmas becoming "Bright Christmas"). And one ("Running Scared") was unfamiliar but so uninspired that it is hard to believe it was written just for the show.
Lighting and set design (both uncredited, but presumably attributable to technical director Martin Miller) were also serviceable. While certainly not a must-see, this show is as benign as "Barney," and very little kids are likely to enjoy it just as much. With less-cloying acting and less-saccharine songs than that painful purple dinosaur show (and even some inspired choices, like "We Need a Little Christmas," from "Mame"), The Chrismouse Story is likely to bore adults quite a lot less.
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Copyright 2000 Jillian Perlberger