BWW Reviews: ITC's Delightful Christmas Show THE ELVES AND THE SHOEMAKER
I lost count with how many "good" messages were being poured into Sarah Brandt (playwright) and NeAl Richardson's (music, lyrics, arrangements, and musical direction production of The Elves and the Shoemaker, which is the current holiday offering on the Heagney stage at Nerinx Hall as part of the Imaginary Theatre Company's season in conjunction with the St. Louis Rep. This, like most of their presentations for kids isn't written "down", and operates well at communicating the various morals, or things that should always be remembered like a snippet of dialogue that went something akin to: "Having each other is the best Christmas gift". But, the best morals are a bit more subtle, like the need to help people and feel rewarded for your good deed, or to cooperate and learn from others in order to achieve your best work.
Brandt's writing is sharp, as always, and tells the basic story with a bit more flair so that it works better for a modern audience. Lakeetha Blakeney is well matched with Jerome Lowe, as the slightly daft shoemaker who leans how to make the best shoes in the land thanks to the efforts of some grateful Elves. Husband and wife team Alan Knoll and Laurie McConnell do everyone else in the show, just about, and seem to be having a blast doing so. Knoll does a wonderful part as the Mistress of the "Golden Goose" restaurant, and McConnell is solid throughout The combination seemed to do the play justice. and my six year non old seemed especially pleased with the results. The vocal talents of the cast manage to give Richardson's tuneful and playful score a good workout that meshes well with the overall story.
Bruce Longworth does a fine job directing, although I would imagine this group can function pretty well on their own, and they're aided greatly by the Scott Leobl's simple scenic design that allows them to switch between the city and the Shoemaker's home in seconds. Ellen Isom provides the lovely and light choreography., which goes on for just the right amount each time. Dorthy Marshall Englis does superior work with the costumes that must have been surprisingly easy to discard, as well as don for Alan and Laurie, since they keep the play hopping with their constant appearances as other townsfolk.
Brandt and Richardson have concocted another intelligent winner that brings a beloved classic to life. My six year old son enjoyed it, and that's a sure stamp of approval, but it was briskly paced for the most part, Like any play where small children ae the primary audience, there was a tendency to waver about halfway through the 45 minutes or so it took to tell the tale. Happily, the audience stayed interested past the half way point before becoming slightly restless. Everything seemed to gel reasonably well by the end, effectively taking the story and adapting it fairly straightforwardly to more accurately reflect the current times we live in while retaining it's fairy tale atmosphere.
I highly recommend ITC's The Elves and the Shoemaker as another example of the St. Louis Rep's putting their own stamp on the show, and coming up with something that appeals to both children and adults at Christmas time. For a Kids' show, it's smartly conceived.
I took in the 11am performance December 17, although there was a 3pm scheduled as well, but there are stagings 12/21-23 and on the 23rd it's at both 11am and 3pm.