Reviewed by Fiona Bessey-Bushnell
As my entire gang bundled up to go to ’Twas the Night Before Christmas, my 8-year-old mistakenly thought I said that tonight was the night before Christmas. Craziness ensued, only to realize we were talking about going to see the musical production of the familiar poem. My husband and I left thinking this musical might be a tough sell.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas is written and directed by Virginia Rep’s longtime artistic director Bruce Craig Miller. As the lights came down in the almost full house, the cozy atmosphere of the intimate theatre, coupled with the old-timey feel of the set, helped make this production come to life. P.J. Freebourn as the engaging Clement C. Moore, set the stage by narrating the introduction of the story. The year is 1822 and Mr. Moore is feeling less than inspired to write his annual Christmas poem. The story unfolds in just under an hour to reveal the ways in which Mr. Moore gets in the mood to write the now iconic poem.
The heart-warming tale is enhanced by a few modern figments of Mr. Moore’s imagination, most notably, Diana Mouse (a dynamo on stage!) and the talented Sugar Plums. The charming Diana Mouse and the Sugar Plums help Mr. Clement become inspired in a supremely funny way. But that is the only hint you will get so as not to give the story away!
Audrey Snyder as Eliza Moore sparkled in the role of nurturing wife and mother, and showcased her beautiful voice for several numbers. Laney Yoo as Margaret Moore and Sophia Bunnell as Charity Moore and the children’s company complemented the cast perfectly.
The larger-than-life John Hagadorn as Mr. Kris Kringle himself steps in to provide vivid imagery for the inspiration of Mr. Moore’s poem. And, as if on cue, audience members caught on right away to the similarities of this endearing character on stage (twinkling eyes, merry dimples, cheeks like roses, nose like a cherry), to Santa Claus, even before Mr. Moore recognized this iconic figure. And if there were any doubt, my 8-year-old who is on the cusp of wanting to believe in Santa, but not completely believing, whispered knowingly to me, “That’s the REAL Santa!”
When I asked him what his favorite part was, he said said, “All of it…Well, Santa. No, really – all of it!” Sold!
The show was a creative and lovely fabrication of just how Moore’s poem could have been inspired. So if you need a little help to elicit visions of sugar plums dancing in your head, make your way over to the Virginia Repertory Theatre. It’s a great way to kick off the season, or to entertain the kids when they are out of school for winter break. You’ll be glad you did.
And, as a special treat, the cast was available after the show to sign programs. Nothing says “believe” like Santa’s autograph!
The show runs through December 29 at the very convenient, very cozy Children’s Theatre of Virginia at Willow Lawn, but from the look of things on opening weekend, getting tickets soon might be a good idea. Some dates also showcase brunch with Santa and SnowBear (tickets sold separately). Recommended for ages 4 and up. For showtimes and tickets, visit Virginia Repertory Theatre: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, 2013