The best Christmas stories are the ones we tell ourselves over and over. TBA’s The Little Magic Snowman by P. Shane Mitchell playing now at APU’s Grant Hall is quickly becoming one of these stories. It has all essential elements for a great Christmas story: a toy maker, a candy maker, a village of singing children, Jack Frost, an orphan girl and of course, a little magic snowman.
The Little Magic Snowman first premiered in Anchorage six years ago on the stage of the Wendy Williamson. I took my nephews to it and we liked it then. My nephews accompanied me to this season’s production and we all agree, this is our favorite show. Frank Bebey’s beautiful scenic design fills Grant Hall, making Snowman’s winter village look for all the world like one of those exquisite snow globes your grandmother used to make you hold with both hands when you asked to shake it.
Director Erin Dagon-Mitchell allows her cast to take the stage with mirth and glee. There are many outstanding performances in this show: Leif and Heather Sawyer or terrific together on stage as the young courting couple; Shane Mitchell and Megan Bladow are perfect as Herr and Frau Meuller, and the magic quartet of Dave Block, Annie Route, Michael Aronwits and Olivia Route hand in talented performances as Old Man Winter, Mother Nature, Jack Frost and the stingy mean-spirited Frostbite.
Jack Frost and Frostbite were my nephew’s favorite characters. They spent the rest of the evening slinking about the house, casting chill spells on the houseplants and freezing the dog with icy stares. The best theatre is always the theatre you bring home with you.
My favorite characters were Emily, the orphan girl at the heart of the story and her snowman friend Pee Wee played by Taylor Haines and Kendra Hearn. If one can speak of chemistry when it comes to child actors, then Emily and Pee Wee got it goin’ on. These fine young performers are magnetic on stage. It can’t be easy for anyone to pull off a big poofy snowman costume, but Hearn does it naturally with an innate sense of comic timing and physical agility that would be admirable in an actor of any age. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and declare Hearn may very well be the penultimate of cute when it comes to little magic snowmen on Anchorage stages.
The cast and crew of Little Magic Snowman is large, ok, it’s a small army, after all nobody wants a Charlie in the Box and nobody wants to visit a Christmas Village with only two or three lonely revelers. It’s impossible to mention everyone, but none of this troupe is doing this show to get their names in the paper. This show succeeds because everyone involved, costume maker to ticket taker is doing what they love with all their hearts. It’s the kind of show TBA does best.
I’m a sucker for Christmas stories, I’ll admit it. The Little Magic Snowman stands out for me because it’s not the kind of story that lectures us about how we get Christmas wrong. It shows us what we do right. In the end, The Little Magic Snowman is hardly a Christmas show at all. It’s the story of friendship, an orphan girl and her snowman, and how when we open our hearts to each other, the magic of the season enters.
The Little Magic Snowman plays at APU’s Grant Hall through Dec. 20, Friday and Saturday at 7p.m. with matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 3p.m. For more information go to tbatheatre.org.
ps. TBA is taking donations of warm winter clothing in the lobby, if you attend. And Santa has been taking time out of his busy schedule to stop by after the show and visit with the kids. Get in your Christmas wishes now.