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The Gifts of the Magi

a Musical
by Mark St Germain and Randy Courts

COMPANY : Theatrical Outfit [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Balzer Theatre @ Herren's [WEBSITE]
ID# 4390

SHOWING : November 29, 2012 - December 23, 2012



im and Della are out of work and penniless during Christmas in New York. To afford presents for each other, both secretly part with their most precious possessions. In O. Henry’s classic holiday story, the two lovers' gesture of giving creates a warm and intimate Christmas in the cold, unfriendly city. Set to the music of Randy Courts, this charming and transcendent musical will kindle the holiday spirit in the heart of Atlanta.

Musical Director S. Renee Clark
Director Heidi Cline
Choreographer Jeff McKerley
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


by playgoer
Monday, December 17, 2012
"The Gifts of the Magi" is one of O. Henry's most well-known short stories. Stretching it to a full evening's entertainment requires some padding, here done by the addition of songs and narrative describing the era and locale and by the interpolation of the story of Soapy Smith, a bum desperate to spend the winter months in the comfort of jail, but who can't get himself arrested, not for want of trying. The padding overwhelms the tender story that lies at the production's heart.

Theatrical Outfit's production has a wonderful set design by Tommy Cox, with a constellation of lamp-lit window panes high up and a city skyline down low. Joseph Futral's excellent lighting casts shadows of the tallest of the buildings on the backdrop and forms a starburst in the center of the stage. Six lamp posts are arrayed on the stage, and brick wall segments left and right anchor the set. Woodwork surrounds the piano stage left, giving a slightly quaint air to the proceedings.

While the set itself is delightful, director Heidi Cline McKerley's use of it seems a bit hyperactive. The lamp posts are moved about with no apparent impulse except to impart movement, with lights lit or extinguished in the same manner. Near the start of the show, garlands are raised on the lamp posts, but they don't seem to fit the stated time period, and their gaiety seems at war with the penury of Jim and Della Dillingham. They seem intended to set the season for modern-day viewers, in a very non-period way.

The movements of the set pieces seem stylized or mannered, as does Bernardine Mitchell's performance. Her singing is powerful, but her diction is sometimes distorted, and the movements she has been given add buttons to the ends of her numbers, but seem artificial. Her character is an awkward combination of Earth Mother and newsboy.

Nick Arapoglou and Caroline Freedlund fare better as the young married couple, Jim and Della. They are both attractive and believable. I've never heard either of them sound better. Della's hair, by Monty Schuth, seems a big wiggy, but the requirements of the story probably make that inevitable. These two are the heart of the story, but they are too rarely the focus.

Glenn Rainey, as Soapy Smith, fills the role with all the charm it needs. He is always an entertaining presence, and "Gifts of the Magi" is no exception. Jeff McKerley and Adrienne Reynolds also add charm, although I often had difficulty understanding what Ms. Reynolds was saying. Their direction was too often slick, adding to the mannered quality of the overall production.

S. Renee Clark's musical direction and piano playing are impeccable, and she also does a short stint as a police officer. This is a fine sounding production, thanks to her, Jonathan Summers' sound design, and the talents of the cast. Randy Courts' score is listenable, without being unqualifiedly rousing or touching. Mark St. Germain's book ably keeps the surprise of the surprise ending, but goes to too-great pains delaying that ending. This is a relatively short, intermissionless show, but it seems to be a one-acter stretched to fill an evening on its own. I would have preferred a pared-down version that hewed more closely to O. Henry's original. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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