Adventure Theatre’s holiday production, ’’Twas the Night Before Christmas is a star studded event, written by Broadway celebrated Ken Ludwig, featuring well-known D.C. actor Gary Sloan, and directed by Jerry Whiddon.
Emily, and her pet mouse, Amos, face another disappointing year of being by-passed by Santa until they find themselves thrust in the heart of all the action at the North Pole. Thanks to a conscientious elf, Calliope, played by Rachel Zampelli, they help “save Christmas” for others who were similarly stripped off the Jolly Fellow’s Nice List.
Sloan plays the narrator Uncle as well as the villainous Sir Guy who is intent on wreaking havoc for the Jolly one by again stealing the list. The characters chase each other through revolving doors, and even perform a funny rap routine. Unfortunately, that’s the highlight since despite its heralded pedigree, the show is a rather unimaginative affair that relies more on sight gags, character misidentification and Punch and Judy jabs instead of the creative wit one expects from the renowned artists involved.
The actors give their all and are enormously fun to watch. Emily and her pet mouse played by Emily Levey and Rex Daugherty respectively, are the dynamic duo on the quest to save the day from the unscrupulous fallen angel, ahem, elf, played with sword dashing aplomb by Sloan who has fun with his chn twin, a sprawling cowpoke, thus setting up the familiar misidentification premise mixing up who gave what and said what to whom—no twists, no sparkle, just the same old mix-up. As Mulch, Sir aracter’s playful antics. Daugherty has double duty since he plays Emily’s trusty ally as well as his owGuy’s trusty side-kick, Alex Perez is subjected to far too much abuse for family fun, before he later dons the red suit as a cool strutting Santa.
The set design by Luciana Stecconi, with scenic art Sasha Goldstein delivers the spark and twinkle sadly missing in the actual script. Panels depicting a traditional living room with a mantle for stockings and family pictures rotate, and with the flick of a twist, become silvery shelves bursting with toys from Santa’s Workshop.
That Adventure Theatre was selected for this grand opening premiere is a testament to its reliable quality. With all the talent involved, moments of hilarity undoubtedly ensue. But the laughs come at the expense of one too many punches in the face for me, and are based on surface slapstick wrapped in predictability instead of warmth and charm.
Still, ready for the holidays, audience members will undoubtedly provide a laugh-track for the surface humor that Whiddon has directed with loud, madcap speed. Ludwig, internationally acclaimed with Broadway hits galore, will hopefully appreciate the need for more originality in his first foray into children’s theater. Until then, a little poke in the face humor can be fun to a point and has its place for a frothy, albeit, mindless good time.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas runs thru Jan 2, 2012 at Adventure Theatre, 7300 MacArthur Blvd, Glen Echo Park, Glen Echo, MD
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
by Ken Ludwig
Based on the poem by Clement Clarke Moore
Directed by Jerry Whiddon
Produced by Adventure Theatre
Reviewed by Debbie Jackson
Running time: 50 minutes, with no intermission
Rating of the show: Somewhat Recommended