The location is Santa’s Workshop, and our young heroes of the story, Emily and Amos, have just saved Christmas by returning the missing Naughty or Nice List. Santa thanks them for their bravery, and when asked what they would receive for Christmas, he simply chuckles. Emily and Amos have received the best present of all – an adventure, and Santa goes on to say:
“If you don’t make life an adventure, what’s the use?”
The audience cheered, and how could they not? Emily and Amos saved Christmas and the kids all around the world can receive their presents under the tree. However, Santa’s line also acts as the perfect moral for this holiday tale – take advantage of life’s adventures as they come, and make sure to have fun along the way.
Emerald City Theatre presents ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas:
Written by Ken Ludwig and directed by Emerald City Theatre Artistic Director Jacqueline Stone, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas begins with an average Christmas night, and the reciting of the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” – the first line from which the play receives its title. Uncle Brierly (Erik Pearson) settles into his big arm chair by the fire place to share the poem with the young children in the audience when all of a sudden, Amos the Mouse (Alejandro Tey, with excellent comedic timing) bursts through the “mouse hole” in the wall, eager to hear the poem as well. Brierly’s niece and Amos’ best friend, Emily (Kirra Silver, with a chemistry that charms the young audience), decides to join, and suddenly, it becomes impossible for Brierly to finish due to the constant interruptions from the young friends. Brierly leaves in a huff, and everything begins to build from there.
Amos and Emily decide to turn Visit from St. Nicholas into a rap, bringing the poem into the modern context. Lighting Designer Keith Parham fills the stage with bright, neon colors, and Emily and Amos dance about the stage with their new poem. In this writer’s view, the number does an excellent job re-engaging the audience, allowing them to see something new after sitting for a period of time with dialogue. The writing is clever, and Silver and Tey do an excellent job bringing that element to life.
The big plot turn happens when Calliope the Elf (Nora Lise Ulrey) enters the scene with a problem – Santa’s Naughty or Nice list is missing, and she needs help finding it. Emily and Amos join the elf on an adventure to help Santa. The trio sets out to save Christmas and as with any holiday story, learns about themselves along the way.
A Theater for Young People
Helmed by Stone, the production is crafted to engross a room full of young audience members. Scenic Designer William Boles’ set is full of bright colors – particularly when Brierly’s home transforms into Santa’s workshop. Boles utilizes images that feel as if they stemmed from a child’s fantasy – down to the bouquets of gum drops and lollipops. Emily and Amos are ecstatic when they see the workshop before them, a feeling that could be felt amongst the young audience members in this performance.
Stone, Boles, and Props Designer Letitia Guillaud collaborate to heighten the experience even further.. In order to get to the North Pole, for example, Calliope takes Emily and Amos in a plane, and Guillaud and Boles create the plane in three parts, giving Calliope the head, Amos the middle, and Emily the rear. The trio flies through the audience, allowing the pieces to move farther apart or closer together depending on the turbulence. The choices make the scene even more fun, and helps keep the audience hooked, wondering where the actors will travel next.
Stellar Audience Engagement
The performance itself is 45-minutes long, and this reviewer has never before seen a group filled with a range of ages so engaged for so long. Stone’s ensemble keeps the energy high and works to bring the young people into the story, which is further aided through the comedic script that utilizes a variety of forms.
Upbeat and fun, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas in this writer’s view is the perfect holiday play for the entire family.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Erik Pearson…Uncle Brierly/Sir Guy of Gisbourne
Nora Lise Ulrey… Britannia Sneed/Calliope
Alejandro Tey… Amos/Amos of Kansas
Anthony Whitaker… Wendell Sneed/Mulch/Santa Claus
Jacqueline Stone… Director
Celia Villacres… Music Director
Gaby Labotka… Fight Choreographer/Assistant Director
William Boles… Scenic Designer
Rachel M. Sypniewski…Costume Designer
Keith Parham… Lighting Designer
Jeffery Levin… Sound Designer
Letitia Guillaud…Props Designer
Production Manager…Aaron Shapiro
Stage Manager…Isabelle Rund
Running through December 30, 2018
Wednesdays at 10:00am
Fridays at 10:00am
Saturdays at 10:00am
Sundays at 10:00am
Running Time: 45 minutes, no intermission.
175 E. Chestnut St
Chicago, IL 60611
About the Author:
Lauren Katz is a freelance director and dramaturge, and new to the Chicago Theatre Scene. She recently moved from Washington DC, where she worked with Mosaic Theater Company of DC in Company Management, as well as directed around town with various theaters.
Click here to read more Picture this Post stories by Lauren Katz.