Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Review: THE CHRISTMAS SHOES at A.D. Players At The George


The A.D. Players present a lovely Christmas tale about people from different walks of life.

BWW Review: THE CHRISTMAS SHOES at A.D. Players At The George
Teresa Zimmerman as Maggie &
Jackson Dean Vincent as Nathan

For the first time, the New York Times Best Selling novel, The Christmas Shoes, is being adapted for the stage. Nathan Andrews' loving mother is terminally ill, yet he and his cash-strapped family are trying to live life to its fullest. Wealthy Robert Layton is a workaholic attorney on the brink of losing the sweet family he unwilling neglects. Robert is long overdue for a wake-up call, which arrives when he crosses paths with Nathan on Christmas Eve. The Christmas Shoes is a tale of our shared humanity and a universal story of how the discovery of a power greater than us can shape, and even save, our lives.

Going in, I had assumed The Christmas Shoes would be a riff off of the age-old A Christmas Carol. In some ways, my assumption was correct, but in many ways, I was off-track entirely. This story is an atypical Christmas story. Sure, the usual Christmas story motifs are still present and accounted for: sage spirits, adorable children, falling in love, snow cascading through the air, zany characters and Christmas shopping dilemmas. However, there are also many heavy topics present that on the surface do not make a great Christmas story: grief, divorce, loss of faith and vegetarianism.

Jessica Lind Peterson's script gives us a glimpse into three different stories all at once that take turns interweaving into each other. The characters range from seven-ish to seventy-ish and all are headstrong and thoughtful of their decisions and actions. They are faced with very tough and very real obstacles that some approach with hope and some approach with skepticism. As a newly commissioned work, A.D. Players has taken a bit of a risk. This Christmas story is a little less Home Alone and more Our Town. And dare I say it, that's okay. There's enough room for both.

Teresa Zimmerman's performance as Maggie served as the emotional core of the story. Her impassioned performance as a former ballet dancer now devoted mother and faithful Christian ridden with Heart Failure tugged on our heartstrings. Watching Zimmerman's authentic interpretation of physical decline through labored breath and intentional moments of fatigue showed us a woman fighting for the little life she has left. Almost triumphant in a flowy white dress and her hand-picked Christmas shoes, her inevitable denouement still moved many of us in the audience to tears.

Young Robert Layton (a very capable J.J. Johnston) bustles about the world striving for professional development while his marriage to Kate (Jeanne Harris) and his relationship with God takes a backseat. Older Robert Layton (an endearing Thomas Prior) has now realized the error of his ways and now lives a slower life with a much older Kate. He is adamant about leaving a legacy behind in his memoir which share's the play's title.

BWW Review: THE CHRISTMAS SHOES at A.D. Players At The George
Michelle Elaine as Jenny & Willow Ire as Annie

Kat Cordes briefly serves as the comedic relief as assistants Fern and Gwen who offer "insightful" tidbits or emotional histrionics and exit stage left. This proves to be good fun and a welcome relief from the heavy subject material.

Michelle Elaine's Jenny has the gusto and force of a Metrorail. Upset about her impending divorce, she throws herself into work and neglects the normal necessities like food, water and sleep. Elaine's chemistry with Joseph Palmore, though brief, accurately portrayed the lingering embers of a marriage in the fire. Their daughter, portrayed with a quick-fire delivery and a heavy amount of sass by Willow Ire, is a product of the Tik-Tok age.

The cast's chemistry is spot on despite a few hiccups in sound balancing, distracting backstage chatter and the flow of the language delivery onstage. The casting is spot on. It was refreshing to be back in the theatre and see so many Houston natives flex their comedic and dramatic skills in a story that required equal amounts of humor and heart. While Philip Hays' staging is mostly stationary, the actors hold the depth of the heavy text with nuance and ease. This requires audience members to lean in to take in the words carefully. I am not entirely sure if I would deem the show a more popular family-based Christmas story than A Christmas Carol or Frozen, it certainly creates space to have important conversations about topics like love and loss.

All creations of the design team helped establish focus for so many intimate scenes in various locations such as a law firm, toy store, living room and cemetery. Barbara Niederer's costumes worked well in collaboration with Afsaneh Aiyana's three-tiered and multi-wagoned scenic design and Mark A. Lewis' lighting design. A highlight of the design elements was the ending tableau: The triangular rooftops gleamed with tiny Christmas lights, the projection backdrop illuminated a cemetery and the isolated cold lighting of three characters on the apron.

Visiting the George is always a pleasure and The Christmas Shoes did not disappoint! If you are in the mood for an unconventional Christmas story jam-packed with humor and heart, run, don't walk to see The Christmas Shoes before it closes on December 26!

Related Articles View More Houston Stories

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes & More

From This Author Alric Davis