Director - Joe Sturgeon
Production Stage Manager - Hans Meyer
Music Director - Aimee Hurst Bozarth
Lighting Designer - Samuel Rushen
Costumer - Tammy Spencer
Sound Designer - Ryan Mansfield
Scenic Designer - Bob Lavallee
Choreographer - Jeremy Dumont
CAST-Please note: Children's Chorus and Ceela are double cast:
Mr. Kringle - Doug Lopachin
Claus/Actor ASM - Christopher J. Deaton
Necile - Mary McElree
Frost Queen - Cara Statham Serber
Auk/Wintaur - Greg Dulcie
Baron Braun/Lady Lerd - Paul Grant
Effie Kringle - Alyssa Gardner Robbins
Jack Frost - Drew Kelly
Zurline/Dancer - Aubrey Adams
Aleena/Dasher - Ashley Arnold
Peter Knook - Michael Pandolfo
Ceela - Addie Presson
Children' Chorus - Natalie Renfro, Caleb Midkiff, Sam Farmer,
Westin Brown, Hayden Hart, Macy Crowne, Hayley Lenamon,
Tiffany Stringer, Avery Presson, Courtney Lynn Povero
Reviewed Performance 12/2/2011
Reviewed by Danny Macchietto, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Santa Claus the musical is an origin story, but not necessarily in the same vein as say, the films Thor, Captain America:The First Avenger or Batman Begins. This original musical was adapted from L. Frank Baum's children's books by writer and director Joe Sturgeon who wrote the lyrics with Jim Wren, and original music by Jim Wren and Joe O'Keefe. The origin story is not interested in exploring any obvious links, from Santa's childhood to how he came to be, in any traditional way children will be familiar with, but that is what is most appealing about this epic fable. Sturgeon and his team of designers strip away our pre-conceived notions of Santa Claus and create something very special.
I'll admit that the exposition of this story had me feeling like I was cramming for a J.R.R Tolkien literature exam as I quickly jotted down my notes but the story started out as follows: Claus is orphaned as an infant and left at the edge of the Enchanted Forest. The Keeper of Forest Law, Auk, finds baby Claus and fights off the evil Frost Queen for ownership. A wood nymph, named Necile, raises Claus as her own, and in typical montage mode Claus grows up to be an eager young man that wants to learn of the mortals. Upon learning of the mortals' flaws he vows to explore their world and be of help somehow. The rest of the story shapes the very nature of how Claus became Santa.
Scenic Designer Bob Lavallee and Lighting Designer Samuel Rushen together create a lush looking forest that suggests something magical without being too extravagant.
The songs are primarily ballads in Act I, and several of them have creatively substituted new lyrics to traditional Christmas songs. Greg Dulcie, as Hauk, sings one of the original songs, "The Fate of Man". The song is simple in design, but rich in its execution, and is one of the standout ballads of this production. Christopher Deaton sings the obligatory Disney-fied I want to discover the world song, "Differently Now" and showers the tune with great conviction. In lesser hands it might seem a bit silly, but it is very sweet and tender.
The second act lightens things up quite a bit after a rather somber first act. Jack Frost played by Drew Kelly, and Peter Knook played by Michael Pandolfo, supply welcome comic relief. Paul Grant as Baron Braun, an officer of the law in the town of Ho Ha Ho, almost runs away with the show in his comical number "Burn, Burn, Burn". I will admit I have an appreciation for the macabre but there is something devilishly amusing with a song about burning children's toys. Mr. Grant delivers the song in a style reminiscent of the great Terry Jones from Monty Python fame.
I am not spoiling anything to say that Claus does indeed defeat the Baron as well as the Frost Queen and is inspired by the "warmth of human kindness" to become the great giver and saint of this Christian holiday, or secular holiday, depending on your interpretation of the piece.
Santa Claus the musical surprised me. It could have easily succumbed to trivial, holiday decadence and represented an ironic message about the commercialism of Christmas, but this tale was told with a sincere heart and backed up with a commitment to good production values, a strong cast, and some nifty new songs.
SANTA CLAUS the musical
Children's Theatre at Casa Manana
3101 West Lancaster Avenue, Fort Worth, TX 76107
Runs through December 23th
Fridays at 7:00pm, Saturdays at 1:00pm & 5:00pm, Sundays at 2:00pm
Special added shows on Tuesday, Dec. 20th; Wednesday, Dec. 21st; and Thursday, Dec.22nd at 7:00 pm
Ticket range is $20-$25. Tickets vary in levels by tiers.
For tickets call 817-332-2272, Monday - Friday, 10 am to 4pm, or purchase online at www.casamanana.org