Marlene S. Gaylinn
HOLIDAY SEASON – THEATRE GREETINGS!
(My gift to you dear theatregoer is to begin with anecdotes about the holiday season).
When I was seven years old, my mother put me on a long line to visit Santa at Macy’s while she went shopping. Although I was small for my age, I was outspoken and sometimes sassy, especially when I felt tricked into something. My object that day was to collect the treats and gifts that were given out by Santa’s assistants – not to be interviewed by him. So, when it was close to my turn to mount this great pretender’s throne, I ducked under the ropes (no one was looking), slipped into the back of the line again, and doubled my loot!
That year, besides candy canes, the children on the Santa line received a wonderful, craft set. The box contained the makings of a cardboard camera and a pack of colored, picture cards -- only everything came in flat sheets and had to be punched out, folded and assembled with your parents help. In other words, your parents had to have the patience to follow the detailed instructions.
When the project was completed, a finger was used to rotate the hole in camera’s cardboard handle. This action turned an inner wheel and flipped its numbered, card inserts, which I had placed in the cut slots. Finally, I peeked through the camera’s viewer and watched Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse tap-dance across the stage, until a hooked cane pulled him by the neck and into the wings. Disney’s cartoons and early, Technicolor films, particularly “Fantasia,” stimulated my early interest in the performing arts.
The fragile toy fell apart in no time, but it took a genius to design and package it. The wonder of it all was that portable; movie cameras and projectors (based on the same principle) had not been mass-produced until after WW II – over five years later!
When my eldest son reached seven -- that same age of enlightenment -- and realized that Santa was not his gift benefactor, he became very resentful. The disappointed boy expressed himself by writing a nasty poem that began, “T’was the Night Before Christmas” and ended “… and to Saint Nick I gave a kick … too bad no toys!” I thought he was a genuine genius. His public school teacher reprimanded him for it … go figure!
“The Santaland Diaries” currently featured at Music Theatre of Connecticut, pokes similar, irreverent fun at holiday traditions. “Fiddle on the Roof” at Downtown Cabaret gives us a poignant view of changing, Jewish traditions, and “Tim and Scrooge” at Westchester Broadway Theatre, contains the English traditions of Charles Dickens’ times.
Below is a round up of these nearby, seasonal offerings:
THE SANTALAND DIARIES – Preview
Music Theatre of Connecticut (MTC)
A frustrated elf assists Santa at Macy’s department store, and relates the incidents that he encounters with unruly children, irritated adults etc. David Sedaris’ writings of his own experiences in this capacity, are peppered with humor. Joe Montello adapted Sedaris’ diaries for the stage. At MTC, Matt Densky’s human observations of this crazy season may bring back your own, amusing memories.
Warning: This production contains adult language and is not appropriate for children.
Plays to December 20th Tickets: 203-454-3883
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF - Review
Downtown Cabaret Theatre (DCT)
Although this “Fiddler on the Roof” is a non-Equity (professional union) production, it contains many, authentic, ethnic elements that are enjoyable, yet, rarely seen in the more recognized theatres. Eli Newsom is the Producing Artistic Director of Bridgeport Theatre Company, which recently merged with DCT. The group will offer live musicals or plays featuring one or two Equity guest artists. “Fiddler” features its first guest artist, Lou Ursone, in the role of Tevye. DCT’s production is under the direction of Joel Fenster, and like Jerome Robbins’ original version, we are almost able to taste his mother’s, kosher, chicken soup – which didn’t come in a can.
The tale is about changing Jewish traditions in Tsarist Russia and Urson (Tevye) gives his own, strong interpretation of a poor milkman who is blessed with five daughters that he is obligated to marry off successfully. Karen Hanley as his domineering wife, Golde, is quite believable, and Lisa Dahistrom is outstanding as the two, ghostly Grandmas: “Tzeitel” and “Fruma-Sarah.” Considering the fact that she worked with an ensemble of non-trained dancers, Lindsay Johnson, did a remarkable job transposing some difficult, original choreography to suit various abilities. Families enjoying food brought from home, sat at individual tables and eagerly clapped in rhythm to the dances.
Particularly poignant was the grand finale -- a human chain of Jewish history from the time the Anatevka residents were dispersed. Cast members wove through the audience wearing Nazi-enforced, yellow stars; uniformed men and women soldiers from the new state of Israel followed, and the mixtures of today’s American’s brought up the end.
Plays to December 20th Tickets: 203-575-1636
TIM AND SCROOGE - Review
Westchester Broadway Theatre (WBT)
This dinner theatre’s Christmas show begins where Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” leaves off. If you don’t know the story you will be entirely lost. In any case, it is twelve years later. By some unknown miracle (I did not catch it) “Tiny Tim” is no crippled and using a cane – nor is he tiny. He attended university and would like to be a teacher and marry his sweetheart, rather than run the accounting business that his father eventually inherited from Mr. Scrooge. Numerous obstacles are put in his way, and Scrooge rises from the dead to advise the correct path to take. It takes the whole first act to introduce the characters and explain all this.
Justin Brown (Tim Crotchet) and George Andrews (Ebenezer Scrooge) are outstanding in their roles but must brave their way through this massive work.
While it’s billed as lighthearted, family entertainment, this production is a more of an opera than a musical. Most of the words are sung in mathematical couplets, there is no dancing, and the plot contains details that even an adult will find difficult to follow.
Plays to December 27th Tickets: 914-592-2222