A familiar holiday tale takes on a new approach (and a few classic rock hits) in Here Comes Santa Claus, the seasonal show currently offered by Casa Mañana Children’s Theatre.
Our first clue about the source material for this musical, written and directed by Noah Putterman, director of children’s theater and education at Casa Mañana, is the surname of the central characters in the story: Simon Crooges and his parents (anagrams, anyone?).
So it is no surprise that Simon (Samuel Moran) is a nasty little brat who is so obsessed with money that he is missing the whole point of the season. But a series of visits from a trio of Christmas spirits (stop me if you have heard this before) changes his mind.
In this updating, both the atmosphere and the recorded score put on modern clothes. The show’s songs are a collection of oldies, some naturally seasonal (like Stevie Wonder’s What Christmas Means to Me), and some with lyrics altered to make them yule-ready (Burt Bacharach’s I Say a Little Prayer, for example).
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But the best of the bunch is an inspired reinvention of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, which is hysterically written, and beautifully staged and sung. It is rivaled for best of show only by the opening production number, Everybody Wants to Go Home, the lone non-oldie in the show, which features the younger members of the large cast showing off both their moves and their voices.
There are also a number of solid performances from the adult members of the cast. Alyssa Robbins, who is education and outreach manager at Casa Children’s, is sympathetic and tuneful as Simon’s impoverished teacher, Mrs. Pinklegrass, a character who stands in for the Cratchit family in this version. And Greg Dulcie has a lot of fun with his Spirit of Christmas Present, who comes on as a sort of overweight version of the Fonz, and camps up an Elvis Christmas number.
The costuming, by Tammy Spencer, is appropriate and sometimes clever, but not really much of a stretch for that highly accomplished designer. Much the same can be said for Katie Dill’s set. It is handsome and serviceable, but its basic design is as familiar to Casa regulars as the show’s plot.
On the whole, this musical could use a little more Christmas cheer to balance Simon’s extreme meanness, appropriate to the story though it is.
But that minor flaw is trumped by the general level of talent involved with the show. Most youngsters will enjoy seeing so many of their peers on stage, and the grown-ups will love the musical parodies.
Through Dec. 23
Casa Mañana Children’s Theatre
3101 W. Lancaster Ave.,