What makes a Christmas gift special? If you think it is how much you paid for it, then you have missed the point of almost every Christmas song, play, musical, and story ever written. But if not price, then what is it? The Gifts of the Magi written by Mark St. Germain and Randy Courts, and directed by Suzanne Beal at Maryland Ensemble Theatre reminds us what Christmas is really about.
Adapted from two short stories written by O’Henry (a pen name) in 1905, The Gifts of the Magi is a lovely holiday musical set in 1900’s New York City. With its nostalgia, romanticism, and New York City-ism, it has all the trappings of a traditional Christmas musical. It’s a brisk- at just 80 minutes – and entertaining story for the whole family.
The Gifts of the Magi follows Della and Jim Dillingham (Eric Jones and Shelley Hierstetter) who are straining to hold on to their dream of making it in New York as they struggle with unemployment and the pressure to find each other the perfect gift.
The musical is narrated by omnipresent newspaper boy Willy Porter (Daniel Valentin-Morales) who, through song and dance, invites the audience into the madness that is New York City during Christmas time.
Folded into O’Henry’s famous story, “The Gift of the Magi” is his story of Soapy Smith as told in “The Cop and the Anthem.” Mr. Smith (Ray Hatch) is a happy-go-lucky homeless man who sets out to commit countless petty crimes in an attempt to get arrested so that he can take advantage of the food and shelter at Rikers Island.
Gifts’ songs range from fast-paced comedic numbers to touching duets that carry the piece along with energy and emotion. All are performed and sung by the talented and energetic cast with an exceptional performance by Daniel Valentin-Morales as Willy Porter.
Jeanine Evans and Laura K. Stark do a wonderful job of portraying all the different types of people in New York. These two comedy work horses filled the evening with laughs with their numerous caricatures of city life.
Choreographer Julie Herber has her cast move well and makes do with a small MET stage.
THE GIFTS OF THE MAGI
December 3 – January 3, 2016
Maryland Ensemble Theatre
31 West Patrick St
Frederick, MD 21701
1 hour, 20 minutes, no intermission
Thursdays thru Sundays
Gifts culminates in an ironic turn of fortune that brings everyone closer together during a time where love and togetherness takes precedence over class divide, greed, and capitalism. So what makes a perfect Christmas gift? Only 4 performances remain for you to find out.