By Jori Waldron
Being handed a plate of Christmas cookies is not normally what theatergoers expect as they enter an auditorium, but at Stage 773’s production of It’s a Wonderful Santaland Miracle Nut-Cracking Christmas Story…Jews Welcome, that’s exactly what they get.
Surrounded by twinkling lights and stockings hung with care, elves race around handing out freshly baked cookies and marshmallow snowmen to greet audience members as they arrive. This festive atmosphere continues throughout the show with songs, dances and short scenes all related to the holiday season.
Producing the show for a second time, Creative Director Brian Posen said 773 expanded its band and cast to make the production even moreexciting. This unique experience includes something for everyone, young and old. Many compilations of familiar carols, along with a few songs redone into raps put the listeners into a festive mood. The performers also include puppets, various instruments and familiar stories retold from different points of view in their performance.
The choreography by Carisa Barreca is especially impressive with several tap numbers, a marionette ballet, and an angel wearing pointe shoes. Truly an ensemble cast, each energized member adds equally to the holiday enjoyment.
The hyper holiday helpers include: Marco Braun, Caitlin Cavannaugh, Nick Curatolo, Dylan Guzman, David Kaplinsky, Sheena Laird, James McGuire, Amanda McWorter, Kristen Rau, Mollie Rehner, Kellen Robinson, Ana Santini and Michael Silver. Dancers include Vance Brinkerhoff, Jess McVay, Kate O’Hanlon, Megan Leahey and Teresa Leahey.
An encouragement for future stagings is to broaden the cast’s ethnic diversity. Even they have to admit that they don’t have anyone to pull off their Kwanza jokes. And despite the occasional feel of a high school variety show, audiences through the holidays will enjoy their 90 minutes of festive fun with free egg nog and a lot of holiday humor.
“It’s a Wonderful Santaland Miracle, Nut-Cracking Christmas Story…Jews Welcome” runs Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:15 pm and Sundays at 3 pm through Dec. 28, at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. Chicago. Tickets may be purchased online at www.Stage773.com or by phone at 773-327-5252.