By Fran Syverson, Sierra Madre Weekly
Ah-h-h, nostalgia-a hearkening back to the good ol’ days, even if they were before our time. “A Little House Christmas” at the Sierra Madre Playhouse takes us back to a pioneer Christmas that perhaps our great-grandparents might recall, if they were still alive. Yet most of us like to “borrow” those memories: trudging through the forest to find our perfect tree with its snowy branches…stockings hung by the chimney…moonlit sleigh rides…Christmas carols sung ’round the piano or at children’s pageants….
So that’s where “Little House Christmas” takes us-back, back to visit Laura Ingalls Wilder’s family of her classic “Little House” books. The Ingalls girls, Laura and Mary, are aglow with anticipation of the coming holiday. Friend and relatives gather at their log cabin to enjoy each other and good eats. Some folks are a bit quirky. Uncle George, still traumatized from war, totes his guitar and smiles a lot, but is sparse with words. The girls dread teenage Nellie Oleson’s visit, for she’s mean and uppity. Her mother, too, puts on “city-folk” airs. Jolie Adamson as Nellie, and Amy Tolsky as Mrs. Oleson both are appropriately snobbish.
Amidst the festivities, alas! Thunderclaps announce a torrential storm. Pa braves the downpour to check out the raging river, and finds that the bridge to town has washed away. The girls fret: Will Santa be able to get to them? Pa and Ma worry, too, as they need to get to town for the girls’ presents. Will some kind of miracle happen?
How easy it is to slip into yesteryear with the Ingalls family! Their warmth exudes the old-fashioned values of love, hard work, and family closeness. Pamela Daly, as Ma, busies herself cooking on the black kitchen stove. Laura and Mary are exuberantly bouncy girls, played by Hanna Victoria Stock and Valerie Lohman, respectively. Pa (Eric Charles Jorgensen) is the good-natured, devoted husband and father. His fiddle-playing, along with Uncle George’s guitar, proves lively tunes for jigs and reels, popular in their time. At first reluctant to dance, Ma finally shows her talents with an almost-defiant blaze of fancy footwork.
Lindsey Strand-Polyak, musicologist, and Rebecca Lord, musical director, researched rarely heard songs from the Little House books to bring them to this stage. Choreography is by Cheryl Baxter.
Lovable, albeit silent, Uncle George (Jim Harnagel) watches the gaiety from the sidelines. Jeff Doba portrays Mr. Edwards as a rather humble, self-effacing but appreciative neighbor. The young men, Nick and Peter, add a youthful romantic touch. Andrew Stock plays Nick, and Fletcher Kamal plays Peter.
The entire stage is a huge log cabin designed by Stephen Gifford. Doors are cleverly situated to convey both the indoors and outdoors as actors move from one to the other. A stone fireplace, a picnic table, and wooden chairs all add to the hominess. Be sure to take time for Lisa Wasserman’s foyer exhibit, this time describing the pioneer days in which the play is set.
Emily Chase directs “Little House Christmas,” which was adapted from the Wilder stories by James Deita. Estelle Campbell and Christian Lebano are co-producers. Stage manager is Alexis Robles, with Sara Haddadin assisting. Sara Gray designed the gingham dresses, aprons, and overalls. Lighting design is by Ana Cecilia Martin, and sound by Christopher Moscatiello.
“A Little House Christmas” truly is a heartwarming treat for family holiday enjoyment at the Playhouse. It runs weekends through Saturday, Dec. 20, with additional performances Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 22 and 23 at 8 p.m. Curtain time is 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2:30 for Sunday matinees. The popular “talk-backs” are held after each matinee. Admission is $28 general, $25 for seniors (65+), $18 for youth (12-22) and $15 for children 11 and under.
The Playhouse is at 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre. Local eateries and free parking are nearby. For reservations or more information, phone (626) 355-4318, or visit the website, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org for online ticketing. For reservations for groups of 15 or more, phone (626) 836-2125.
Source: Beacon Media News