“‘Twas the Land of the Night Before” Has Charm
Classic Theater Guild has gone for the hand-made, homespun approach to a holiday show this season by reviving the original musical “’Twas the Land of the Night Before,” written by local theater makers Bill Douglas and Steve Suriano, directed by Barbara Davis and music directed by Wendy Camilli. It’s not Bedford Falls, Scrooge & Marley’s or Wahoo Forest but the gentle, local show has charms of its own.
“The Land of the Night Before” spends all of its time in the Sisyphean task of preparing for Christmas with no morning of celebration. It seems the receiving and giving of presents creates too much strife. Because it never arrives, Christmas is barely mentioned, if at all, instead it‘s X-mas when it does come up.
Wandering into town is Yule (an appealing Brian Rainey) and his sidekick Satchel (always energetic and smart Brian McBride Land) who marvel along with us at the tree trimming and the untrimming by the auxiliary as ornaments and garlands are placed and removed in the pretty strong opening tune, “Here in the Land.”
Yule meets the local teacher (Desiree Chappelle) who wants nothing to do with his magical ways and with the strongest voice of the afternoon, she learns to “Trust in Me.” Desiree most recently played the title role in Bunbury Players’ “The Heidi Chronicles” and she is invaluable to the charm of “’Twas.”
Finn Vanier’s Mayor had a silky manner that struck my ear as close to Snagglepuss…that’s a good thing. Of course, there is also a passel of children with each one cuter than the next and featuring a born scene stealer in Rowan Wall.
The book has some amusing puns (Botox in the ribbon factory), the central premise can be mined for its Beckettian absurdity, and the songs have a useful sweetness, but the show lacks drive. It seems to be stuck in its self-created, endless night. The production hasn’t helped much with many moments of empty stage time while costume changes are going on backstage.
“’Twas the Land of the Night Before” is a modest, local entertainment sincerely crafted to pleasantly while away the participants’ and attendants’ time…just like in The Land of the Night Before.
Presented by Classic Theater Guild through 12/18 at Proctors Addy Theatre