Friday, December 11, 2015

Off-Broadway Review: A Child's Christmas in Wales

Ashley Robinson, Mark Hartman, Jacque Carnahan and John Cullum. Photo: Carol Rosegg
An Old-Fashioned Christmas Treat
By Lauren Yarger
Gather round for good cheer, Christmas songs and the reading of A Child's Christmas in Wales Off-Broadway at Irish Repertory Theatre.

Chairs are gathered in front of the fireplace in a room decked out for the holiday. Four trees behind stacks of colorful packages glow with warmth as Dylan Thomas's poem, adapted and directed by Charlotte Moore, comes to life.

Jacque Carnahan, Katie Fabel, Kenneth Quinney Francoeur and Ashley Robinson, who often portrays the young Thomas) join Broadway legend John Cullum (the grandfather), who holds an oversized book of "A Child's Christmas in Wales," which serves as a reference for the evening's memories.

The prose, with its stories of odd relatives visiting for the holiday, descriptive language of snow falling and childhood fun and remembrances, is interlaced with Christmas songs both moving and filled with good cheer. A couple of songs are offered with Welsh lyrics and director Moore pens music and lyrics for "Open Your Eyes" and "Ring Out the Bells."

A highlight in the 20-plus song repertoire is Cullum's solo of "All Through the Night." What a Christmas gift, indeed, to have a chance to hear the star of Shenandoah and On a Clear Day among so many others, sing a bunch of songs (even if he is conscious of being part of an ensemble and doesn't let his fine baritone blow us out of the seats of the intimate DR2 Theatre where Irish Rep is performing during renovations at their home theater on West 22nd Street.)

Musical Director Mark Hartman plays the piano on stage, almost as if he is a family member urged to provide accompaniment so relatives can join together for carols. The 75-minute, no-intermission presentation has such a warm, nostalgic feel, that you'll wish Christmas didn't come just once a year. (In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I bought myself a Christmas present and got a ticket to go see it again).

A Child's Christmas in Wales plays through Jan. 3 at D2 Theatre, 103 East 15th Street in Union Square. Performances are Tuesday and Thursday at  7 pm; Wednesday at 3 and 8 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 3 and 8 pm;  Sunday at 3 pm. Check holiday weeks for changes. Tickets are $71: http://www.irishrep.org/childschristmas2015.html

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

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All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

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I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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