Magic, Holiday Fun Brought to Life in “Babes in Toyland”

The cast of nearly fifty was made up largely of area youngsters who are more than ready to put you and the kids in the holiday spirit with the delightful opening number, “Hail to Christmas.” Lovingly directed by Crighton perennial, Jim Walker, the Eugene Jackson play tells a story centered about countless characters from the nursery rhymes of Mother Goose.

Such favorites as “Three Men in a Tub,” “The Queen of Hearts,” “Humpty Dumpty,” and “Jack-in-the-Box,” come vividly to life thanks to a cast that is loaded with hard-working and talented children. Your youngsters won’t need a program to figure out who’s who in the fabulous, imaginative and very colorful costumes of Lyn Peverill. Her original designs are a highlight of the production, and are beautifully complemented by the charming sets and scenic designs of Russell and Joan Kelley. Perhaps there hasn’t been this much vivid color on a stage since the Hollywood heyday of Technicolor. Don’t miss “Mistress Mary Quite Contrary’s” quaint cottage and garden, or the vivid mural depicting both the “Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe” and the “Cow That Jumped Over the Moon.”

The easy-to-follow plot has Mary (C.J. Dockery) in love with handsome young Alan (Wesley Fruge). Alan’s evil Uncle Barnaby (Jerre B. Williams) looks like a cross between Count Dracula and the Mad Hatter. He and his partners in crime, (Dennis O’Connor as Gonzorgo and Colton Peverill as Roderigo) do all they can to thwart romance between Alan and Mary. Dot Gallagher plays the feisty Widow Piper, Joel Looney is the energetic toy shop assistant, Grumio, and Steven Balagatas does a suspicious Inspector Marmaduke, who may or may not be corrupt. Brian Bushart provides a scary Giant Spider, and moves about convincingly in one of the show’s cleverest costumes.

Rounding out the casting leads is the vocally talented Greg Kelly who sings a delightful “Toyland,” and doubles as the show’s Musical Director. He gets fine choral ensemble work from the youthful cast. While the book and lyrics are not up to the witty and melodic standard of such previous productions as “Rumplestiltskin,” there are a number of cute songs and some momentary reminders of Gilbert and Sullivan. Cheri Eagan provides some nice choreography, including the acrobatic gypsy dance and the toyshop dance of the dolls. And what discipline we see from the statue-like dolls before they are brought magically to life by the dazzling “Gizmo” machine, amid the luscious sets and costumes of Toyland.

As a beaming and justifiably proud cast sang a final “Toyland” reprise, audience member Joan Smalley-Smith turned to her husband Maurice and whispered: “They really are dolls, aren’t they?” A perfect Christmas card had come to life on the Crighton stage.

For area parents wondering about the best entertainment for young children this holiday season, Conroe’s Crighton Players are ready with the answer in the colorful new production of “Babes in Toyland” at Conroe’s historic Crighton Theater. 8 p.m. performances December 1st, 2nd, 8th and 9th. Also, 2 p.m. matinees November 26th and December 3rd. Call 936-441-7469 for reservations or information.

(The Courier    11.26.00)

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About The People's Critic

David Dow Bentley III, writes columns about the performing arts which are featured in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast. A member of the Lambs Club, he is also editor of The Lambs' Script. Mr. Bentley may be contacted via e-mail at ThePeoplesCritic@earthlink.net.
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