|the cast/band of Christmas at the Local (photo by Dan Norman)|
talented cast of actor/ singer/ musicians enter the local pub one by one. As the audience continues to chat amongst themselves, they greet each other, shed their winter gear, pull their instruments out of their cases, and maybe play a little. It feels like the most welcoming neighborhood bar since Cheers. Eventually the songs start to take a little more form, the house lights darken so slowly you don't even realize it, and the show has begun. After a couple of eclectic holiday songs I'm sure I first heard on the MPR Morning Show** ages ago, the first story begins. A Child's Christmas in Wales is a charming story of just that, filled with such clear imagery and emotions that I began to feel nostalgia for my own Christmases Past, which were not spent anywhere near Wales. The music (by Cerys Matthews and Mason Neely) was originally written for a full orchestra and adapted by Music Director Jason Hansen for a folky collection of instruments, and I don't really remember anything specific about it other than it perfectly complements and enhances the emotions of the story, which is perhaps the best thing that could be set about a musical score.
When the first story ends in what feels like too short a time (the whole show runs about 75 minutes and leaves you wanting more), the next piece begins. Dr. Maya Angelou's poem Amazing Peace, written in 2005, is so bittersweet and hopeful, seemingly speaking directly to the current moment, that it brought tears to my eyes. Especially when accompanied by original music by local singer/songwriter Chastity Brown, another perfect marriage of text and music (not surprising, that's what Theater Latte Da does).
|storyteller Joy Dolo (with Quinn Shadko)|
(photo by Dan Norman)
It's been a while since we've seen a full set with walls on the Ritz Theater stage, and this one is impressive: a detailed and authentic-looking pub, complete with a bar, a piano, a booth and other cozy seating areas, rustic chandeliers, a door and windows looking out on the dark and snowy night, and walls covered with photos, instruments, and memorabilia. It's the kind of place where I'd love to have a pint and hang out for a few hours. The lighting design helps to create that cozy feel, including lanterns hanging from the ceiling over the audience that darken and lighten at just the right moments. The cast is dressed in casual, cozy, chic winter wear, a little festive but not in an over-the-top ugly Christmas sweater kind of way (only classy Christmas sweaters and scarves in this pub). Finally and as always with Latte Da in this space, the sound mix of all the voices and instruments is perfect. (Scenic design by Benjamin Olsen, props design by Abbee Warmboe, lighting design by Marcus Dilliard, costume design by Amber Brown, sound design by C. Andrew Mayer).
Theater Latte Da has done it again. They've created an original holiday piece of music-theater that perfectly marries song and text and makes you feel all the feels, including nostalgia, comfort, and hope, and will hopefully become an annual tradition for years to come. Celebrate a magical Christmas at the Local now through January 1. I'll leave you with these words from Dr. Angelou.
We, Angels and Mortal's, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.
Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.
*Click here for reviews of all of the holiday shows I've seen this year.
**For an eclectic selection of holiday songs that reminds of "The Morning Show" of the past, check out The Current's Holiday Stream.