REVIEW — There are plenty of terrific Christmas-oriented productions in full swing for local theater fans, a veritable Santa’s sleigh of offerings. The Tuacahn Center for the Arts has something unique to offer this season, a world premiere of a new musical titled “Fairy Tale Christmas.” Written and composed by the father/son duo of Michael McLean (“Forgotten Carols”) and M. Scott McLean this is an ambitious but incredibly witty mash-up of traditional Santa Claus lore and fairy tale princess chicanery.
The musical’s biggest problem isn’t significant: the somewhat convoluted plot involving Santa being kidnapped by a group of fairy tale villains who end up striking a bargain in hopes of having their nefarious story endings reversed in their favor is not always clear. Part of this challenge is normal due to the newness of the songs and on first blush any new musical often needs repeated viewings/listenings to fully explain itself (Hello “Les Mis” and “Wicked”).
But “Fairy Tale Christmas” has so many ingenious elements going for it that focusing on the plot imperfections seems like nitpicking. Each of the seven actors portray at least two characters – most of them good and evil – and the combination of Dustin Cross’ fabulous costumes that allow for quick changes (mostly performed on-stage) and director Jeffry Denman’s brilliant blocking, which permits the actors to change character rapidly and seamlessly is a marvel to watch. Some nifty deflection happens, too, as characters leave the stage unnoticed and appear as different characters.
The music is at once traditional and contemporary (A hip-hop, soulful Santa portrayed by DeMone often steals the scene) and deceptively challenging with complex harmonies.
Credit the other cast members Jordan Aragon, Matt Ban, Jennifer Byrne, Courtney Capek, Hannah Record and Alena Watters for not only handling with aplomb their relentless character changes but rarely missing a note on the up-tempo, melodic musical numbers. Of the dozen or so songs “Hero of Your Own Story” and “Sweet Revenge” are standouts.
A brisk 75-minute length with no intermission makes for a sweetly cynical contemporary classic that doesn’t wear out its welcome with kids or adults.
The scenic, lighting and sound design by Brad Shelton, Bo Tindell and Julie Ferrin, respectively, make the newly upgraded indoor Hafen Theater sparkle in ways it heretofore has not.
Best of all is the stunning video projection work designed by Jon Infante, which perfectly supplements the stage action and converts the stage into a holiday wonderland of fairy tale dreams.
The completely hidden live orchestra directed by David Lamoureux is spot-on, as usual.
“Fairy Tale Christmas” puts some new spins on familiar favorites and with some tweaking should become a traditional holiday favorite for years to come.
Performances run Mondays-Saturdays through Dec. 23 at various times. No children under 3 years old are allowed in the theater. Tuacahn’s child care service, ShowCare, will be available.
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- For more information visit Tuacahn online | Christmas in the Canyon webpage (with links for ticket purchases online) | “Fairy Tale Christmas” webpage (with link for ticket purchase online) | Tuacahn Box Office – to purchase tickets or register for ShowCare telephone 435-652-3300.
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