BWW Review: Fanciful PRANCER at Lyric Arts Warms Hearts Through Magical Belief
Who believes in flying reindeer-Dasher, Dancer and Prancer? One of the seasonal productions on stage at Anoka's Lyric Arts Main Street Stage titled "Prancer" had its beginnings in a 1989 Canadian American film written by Greg Taylor. Eventually, Seattle Children's Theatre and Children's Theatre Company Minneapolis commissioned the film for a play in 2016--Th dramatic and charming holiday selection speaks to what does a person, or those in the audience, believe int? Do they believe in magic, even the unseen that requires faith to believe in?
In this heartwarming story, an eleven year old girl, Jessica Riggs, struggles with losing her mother and attracting the attention of her father while he adjusts to his own extraordinary loss. Her older brother, Steve, tries to steady Jessica's roller coaster emotions, as does her Aunt Sarah, until Jessica discovers a hurt deer--Prancer--who she believes to be one of Santa Claus's elite eight. Holding her secret reindeer inside a shed, she then tries to convince her best friend to believe her. Feeding and keeping her precious reindeer to survive so he can meet Santa on Christmas Eve, while surviving the trials her father needs to overcome on the family farm creates a nostalgic tension.
Director Laura Tahja Johnson delivers a cast that captures the inherent emotion in the story. Valerie Heideman gives Jessica a youthful innocence, one where an eleven old could believe in actual facts--and a mysterious reindeer, while growing through these life experiences. Carter Johnson play her older sibling Steve, concerned yet critical in a brotherly, reluctant way. Yet, both siblings try to understand their father, a pushed to the edge John Riggs, Anthony R. Johnson, while his sister Sarah, Gina Sauer, strives to give him confidence under the sorrowful circumstances. A host of accomplished, supporting cast members, including young actors, enhance the story, with Kathleen Martin designing the costumes for the production.
Prancer the reindeer plays especially enchanting on stage in a costume designed by Madeleine Achen, who performs with Callie Baack. The pair combine to create an absolutely mystical creature creating the centerpiece to this fantasy. Without the exquisite Prancer--how could the audience believe the entire story?
The heart of "Prancer" and Jessica's turmoil with the upcoming Christmas holiday includes a New York Sun editorial from 1897--an editorial that inspired another holiday tale, "Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus." The entire editorial printed in the New York Sun was a response to a small girl's question about Santa Claus. The 100 year old text would be worth rereading because the author speaks to skepticism in a skeptical age, then, the turn of the 20th century. What would newspapers name the present age--the age of apathy or an absence of morality through an uncaring, uncivil and uncertain world?
Jessica's mother read her the story, the editorial, every Christmas, which said:"Where the most real things in this world cannot be seen by men (women) or children." The author proposes only faith, fancy, love, poetry, romance and beauty push aside the criticism and curtain of skepticism that the world currently believed to see the supernal glory that surrounded the readers, and then this audience, wherever that might be.
Whatever the audience's beliefs, irrelevant of culture, politics or social environment, they will be reminded to believe in something: the magic in a first snowfall, the hospitality of seasonal lights reflecting on a snow covered street, the beauty in a particular measure of a song, the stars in a winter sky that speak to the world above the earth, the light in a baby's eyes offering hope. Or perhaps enduring love demonstrated by the seventy year marriage of George H.W. and Barbara Bush, where Bush's last words were to his one son: "I love you,"
At Lyric Arts' poignant 90 minute, no intermission production, the second act steers the story and inspires audiences to ponder what they believe. Perhaps, how this current age of "extreme skepticism" influences what the audience might wish to believe in?And then perhaps act on or demonstrate to others around them throughout the coming year, 2019. Surely enjoy the delightful Lyric Arts' "Prancer" to provide an evening of light in the darkness on any December night that adds a touch of magic to the holiday season.
Lyric Arts presents Prancer at the Main Street Theater, 420 East Main Street, through December 23. For information or tickets, please visit: www.lyricarts.org.