Sitting down, waiting in anticipation, for Adventure Theatre’s production of Ken Ludwig’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, in my wildest imagination, I never would have anticipated the surprising modern twist on this classic poem. Adventure Theatre productions have yet to disappoint me or my kids, each one is top-notch and creative in its own way, but ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas is easily my favorite one yet. Following in a close second, in my book, is their version of Go Dog Go! from a few years ago.
The play opens how you expect, the stage designed as a living room on Christmas Eve, with trustworthy Uncle Brierly starting the opening lines of the poem (and imagine our surprise, Uncle Brierly is played by Gary Sloan, a neighbor of ours; my girls stalk his dogs). With the entrance of young Emily and Amos the mouse, you know the kids are enraptured and excited to see what surprises are in store – but never would I have guessed a visit from the Elf-B-I, let alone a few Christmas raps and a Jewish elf named Calliope. The creativity, imagination and humor that went into writing this play is top-notch and appeals to the children and the parents in the audience, much like a Pixar movie.
It’s hard for me to say too much without giving it away because this is anything but a staid reproduction of this classic Christmas poem. But how can I not mention the fallen elf’s sword fight with Amos the mouse’s twin brother? Right? I mean – aren’t you intrigued? It’s hilarious. And unexpected. And the set design of Santa’s workshop in the North Pole leaves no detail behind; the shelves are glittery and the toys are brightly colored, plentiful and look beautiful in contrast to his white workshop.
Beyond the creative script-writing that modernizes this tale is the brilliant work of the five actors who keep everyone’s attention for the 60-minute production (including my typically wiggly 3-year-old). First, I’ve always loved the way Adventure Theatre costume designers dress the actors who are performing as animals in their productions. I would think it’s easy to go overboard when dressing someone to be a sheep, a spider or in this case, a mouse. Yet each time their costumes are simple and minimal yet the actor is accessorized just enough (in this case mouse ears, a hat and a tail) for the kids and adults to fall into the story and find Rex Daugherty entirely believable as Amos the adventure-averse mouse.
Despite his reservations, Amos and his best friend Emily, played by Emily Levey, head off on quite an adventure with Calliope, one of Santa’s five Jewish elves, played by Rachel Zampelli. Their trip to the North Pole becomes a mission to thwart Sir Guy, the fallen elf whose costume resembles Robin Hood meets a sword-fight loving Musketeer, from stealing Santa’s toy list and selling it to Bloomie’s. Sir Guy’s hilarious and totally dense side kick, Multch, is played by Alex Perez, who is also Santa.
This hour-long production delivers exciting chase scenes, a Mouse-Elf sword fight, singing, rapping and plenty of physical comedy, along with an exceptionally written script. Topping everyone’s Christmas list this year should be a trip to Adventure Theatre for this play! After the production, my girls happily met the actors in the show and took pictures. It was a real treat!
The show runs through January 2 and I understand tickets in December are already selling out quickly. They advise it is age appropriate for kids 4 and up but I will say my 3-year-old was totally enthralled the entire time. Tickets are $18 each.
Disclosure: The Adventure Theatre gifted these tickets to me. My opinions here are all my own.