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Another Night Before Christmas

a Holiday Musical
by Sean Grennan, with music by Leah Okimoto

COMPANY : ART Station Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : ART Station Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 5191

SHOWING : December 06, 2017 - December 17, 2017



It’s Christmas Eve and for Karol — a harried social worker in her 30’s — the Holiday season can’t end soon enough. Walking home after her office party, she meets a homeless man with a scraggly beard and gives him her party leftovers. When the same man appears in her apartment, questions arise — like, could Santa really have come to town?

Director David Thomas
Karol Liza Jaine
The Guy Jeff LeCraw
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Miracle on Peachtree Street
by playgoer
Monday, December 11, 2017
Sean Grennan’s "Another Night Before Christmas" introduces us to Karol (Liza Jaine), a somewhat disgruntled social worker, as she meets a homeless man (Jeff LeCraw) on the street and offers him the leftovers from her company holiday party. He accepts, but that’s not the last she sees of him. He says he’s Santa Claus, and she attempts to get him the help he obviously needs. But is the holiday cheer-deficient Karol the one who really needs help?

ART Station’s production of this two-person play with songs has a slightly anemic feel. While the two people onstage are augmented by a talking security system and phone messages (voiceovers by Carl & Carrie Christie), there’s a thinness of the material and a lack of appeal in the songs in the first act that don’t give much promise of ultimate holiday cheer. Things get brighter in the second act, when holiday decorations overflow on Michael Hidalgo’s set and Jeanne Fore’s costumes reach their Christmas-y best. With a couple of affecting ballads ("Christmas Moon" and "Please Send Me Christmas," with music by Leah Okimoto), the second act tugs at the heartstrings and shows true holiday spirit by the final moment.

There are parallels to "Miracle on 34th Street," with a skeptical woman and a magical Santa look-alike crossing paths and crossing (figurative) swords. Since these are the only two characters, stellar performances are needed from each to make this play truly come to life. Here, Ms. Jaine and Mr. LeCraw give thoroughly acceptable performances, but there’s not a sense of them transcending the material. Nor can Patrick Hutchison’s musical direction transcend the marginal quality of the songs. Director David Thomas has done a nice job of shaping the performances and keeping the action moving, but the direction can’t transcend the material either. The proportion is a lot of set-up to a smaller amount of pay-off.

Each act starts with an outdoors scene, indicated by a bench in front of the closed red stage curtains. The curtains then open to reveal Karol’s modest apartment, with a small living room and tinier kitchen, whose track lighting above doesn’t seem to be effective except as a track. Lighting and sound effects are spot-on, with the initial reveal in the second act giving a hint of the holiday decorations soon to be seen.

This is a pleasant enough holiday show that isn’t a rehash of Dickens’ "A Christmas Carol" or of a popular holiday movie. With magical performances and more appealing songs, it could be a delight. Its two-person form targets it toward smaller theaters, and that’s its primary appeal. ART Station is presenting it with a couple of Atlanta-specific references, but it’s a story that properly belongs in a more northerly climate, where -10 degree temperatures at Christmas would be more of a possibility. Still, the story has a universally American appeal for the holiday season. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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