December 22, 2007

The Joy of "A Child's Christmas in Wales"

Christmas is a wonderful time to be in New York. From the big glittering tree in Rockefeller Center to the lights strung around lampposts, and from the performances of "The Nutcracker" at the City Ballet to the Nativity pageants in neighborhood churches, the whole city seems to be aglow and putting on a show. Somehow, though, the season usually whirs right by me. But this year when I saw that the Irish Repertory Theatre was putting on a musical adaptation of the Dylan Thomas poem A Child's Christmas in Wales, I emailed my friend Ellie and asked if she wanted to go. I'd never read the poem but I knew that Ellie, a former actress who now writes and teaches poetry, loved it and I thought seeing the show would be a fun way for us to take some time out and celebrate the holidays. As with so much in life, it didn't quite turn out the way I thought it would.

The show, playing in the tiny 44-seat studio space in the basement of the Irish Rep's theater on West 22nd Street, was enthusiastically performed by five twentysomething actors and a pianist but it came off more as a school recital featuring the pluckiest students (right down to the red velvet dresses for the two girls and tuxedos for the three boys) than a professional production with a $35 ticket price. The Rep's artistic director Charlotte Moore has paired the recitation of the Thomas poem with a dramatic reading of Clement Clark Moore's "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" and embellished both with carols and other holiday songs. Ellie, who'd thought there would be Welsh, or at least Irish, music, put her head in her hands and groaned when the two women started singing "Silver Bells." But watching the young actors and listening to both poems transported me back to my own childhood.

Like the Thomas clan, the uncles, aunts and cousins in my family gathered each year and ate and drank and argued and bonded throughout the day. For a few years, my cousins and I even did our own adaptation of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" (I wrote and directed) and performed it for our parents after the big family dinner and before the presents were exchanged. Nearly all of the elders have now passed on and it's been years since the extended family has gotten together. The Rep's 60-minute version of A Child's Christmas in Wales (click here to hear a recording of Thomas reciting his poem) isn't what I'd usually call a good show but, in reminding me of those joyful times, it touched me. So I'm glad, I took the time out to see it. And I hope each of you finds some time during this busy season to think about good holidays past, to make good memories for the ones yet to come and of course, if you can, to see a good show.

Merry Christmas.

1 comment:

Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Merry Christmas Jan! Here's wishing the best in 2008 for both Broadway and you!