A Child’s Christmas in Wales is a musical adaptation of a Christmas poem about Christmastime in Wales. The plot follows the memory of an old man as a boy (Dylan) through the traditions of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, from the parade of visiting relatives to the barrage of unwanted gifts. With songs, stories and poems shared between the young and old members of the family, the audience is invited to join in the holiday festivities in Wales.
Poem and Songs Converted Loosely to Theatrical Form
HE SAID: This show felt a bit loose in structure for the first half, with characters entering and exiting quickly. I believe this is partly due to the story being framed by the memory of a child, in this case a young Dylan Thomas. The problem with that is that I was all but lost for a good deal of the show, not sure where and when I was. The second half felt a bit more linear and I was able to follow it a bit better, but by then I hadn’t connected with the characters preventing me from joining their celebration.
SHE SAID: I think that maybe in the transition from poetry and song, this play was constructed a bit too loosely. Although the play followed a familiar holiday schedule, from waiting all day while food is cooking, to the anticipation of gifts, to the extended eating, drinking and singing, there was no central conflict, and therefore no momentum toward a resolution. This made the largely enjoyable material seem a bit stagnant.
Pleasant Voices Punctuate Sleepy Story
HE SAID: That stagnancy also prevented the talent of the cast to be showcased. Vocally this cast was pretty well stacked, but most of the time the music was framed by the music of basic hymns and carols, which meant none of the music was challenging. The very few times there were harmonies I was surprised by the change in music and pleasantly impressed with the execution. In terms of the performance, everyone seemed content and amiable for most of the show with no real opportunity to show depth to their characters since they were never faced with a conflict. The one person who showed a range was Tyler Collins, mostly because he played a handful of characters including the spirited postman, ornery policeman, and grumpy uncle.
SHE SAID: I fully agree that the cast members were all clearly talented. The strange energy of the material kept all of the characters at a bit of a distance from the audience. Another distancing factor was the Welsh dialect used by all the actors. The dialects weren’t inconsistent, in that I didn’t notice the actors dropping out of the dialects, but they weren’t uniform across all the actors, so my ear never adjusted and then relaxed as often happens when I’m listening to a show with dialects. Jackson Garske as Dylan, the child through which we are meant to view Christmas, had never-ending energy and it was enjoyable to watch his playful spirit. I also enjoyed Gary Lemmons when he emerged from behind the piano to take on a variety of roles. All of the women had lovely singing voices and a classic energy that seemed fitting for the old-fashioned story.
Cozy Design Sets the Stage for a Homey Tale
HE SAID: I actually felt that some of the actors did drop the dialects at points through the show, but I do agree that they weren’t the most believable which was a bit distracting. The best part of the experience was definitely the technical elements. The set felt cozy and warm, just like I like my house during the holidays. The roaring fire effect was lovely. The staging by Director Rick Bernstein worked well for the space, and would have kept all sections of the three-sided audience involved in the show had there been people in the left and right sections.
SHE SAID: The biggest strength of A Child’s Christmas in Wales was the overall atmosphere that was created by the scenic (by Richard H. Pegg) and lighting (by Karalyn Pytel) designs. This homey, old-fashioned feeling was largely carried by the cast in story and song. I have to admit that this spirit was broken periodically — for example, I was distracted by the fact that all the props were handled in mime. Although I understand the limitation of not serving a Christmas dinner at every performance, the extensive mime work became a little overwhelming during the large scenes that were based around the invisible food and drink.
Miner’s Alley Creates Warm World That is Difficult to Connect With
THEY SAID: As people who are currently signed up to see multiple versions of A Christmas Carol, we applaud Miner’s Alley for choosing a unique Christmas offering. As mentioned in the program notes, there is no written score for the show and they used common hymns and carols for their music. This left the songs uninspired and mostly without purpose. Add on top of that the poetic story being told through wavering inauthentic accents and we just had a difficult time living in the world of the piece.
A Child’s Christmas in Wales presented by Miner’s Alley Playhouse plays through December 22. Click the banner below for tickets and more information.