Saturday, December 11, 2010

Show #66 "A Child's Christmas in Wales" at Stone Soup Theatre

There must be something completely lovable about a "memory play." That, for those who aren't familiar with this term, refers to a play that is based on someone's memories from their past. "A Child's Christmas in Wales" is based on the poetry of Dylan Thomas, and captures his fond memories of childhood in Wales.

Audiences love this kind of reminiscence. It evokes thoughts of tradition, family and celebration. Stone Soup Theatre has found this particular story hits the target every holiday season. In fact, this is their 5th year in staging this same Christmas show. Tonight, it played to a more-than-capacity crowd.

The young actors involved were students from Stone Soup's Youth Theatre Conservatory. The adults in the cast were professional actors. This much I knew going into the evening. What I didn't know was how much the young actors (ranging in age from 7 years old and up) contributed to the show.

Even before the show began, two young boys in the cast were selling concessions. Not from a table or booth in the lobby, but from center stage. While audience members took their seats, these fine fellows very eloquently offered us cookies and hot cider. Then, three lovely young girls serenaded us with a string trio: 2 on violin and 1 on cello.

As the story opened, these young performers sat in rapt attention as their "mother and father" shared childhood memories of Christmas traditions, family gatherings, cherished gifts and holiday meals. The other adult actors played various roles, as assorted neighbors and relatives. Music was provided by a violin and guitar and from a melodic trio of singers.

But the most impressive part of the evening was watching the children perform in multiple roles, some playing both child and adult characters, and how they also doubled as stage crew, dancers and musicians.

So many times, when there is a play involving adult and child actors, the children are not much more than set dressing as the adults take the spotlight. Not so with "A Child's Christmas in Wales." All actors, both young and not-so-young, were part of a perfect ensemble, all contributing equally to the telling of the story.

I have seen another work by Dylan Thomas, "Under Milkwood," and found the play to be a marvelous actor's exercise, but a bore for an audience member. But "A Child's Christmas in Wales" was just right. Not too long, not too short. Its sentimentality was warm, not corny.

I can see why Stone Soup has made this a staple for their holiday season. And I love seeing a cast playing to a sold-out house.

Congratulations, Stone Soup! You did good. sure picked a great stage manager for your show, too.

Photo courtesy of Stone Soup Theatre

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