The rightly revered poet, Dylan Thomas, famed for his unique way with words strung together with cunning juxtapositions of noun, adverb and adjective, has brightened Yuletide for decades now with his poetic prose piece “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” A reminiscence of a Christmas childhood in Swansea, Wales, the lyric work came to prominence with a BBC Broadcast in 1952, shortly before he died in New York City while on a tour of America. It has been repeated during the holidays ever since. It has an irresistible lure for theatre companies looking for a holiday performance to lure in the crowds. Brought to the stage in various ways by various companies, Long Beach Shakespeare has come up with their own faithful version adapted and directed by Helen Borgers.
With minimal, adequate scenery shoehorned into the snuggest of spaces and a charming company of players, this unpretentious “Child’s Christmas” delivers what one wants from a holiday show, the feelings of warmth, nostalgia and good cheer. Running a scant sixty minutes, the show expands on Thomas with spectacle and a good deal of enthusiastic singing and dancing. Six actors, ranging in age from teens to twenties to older, deliver songs familiar and not with impressive well-rehearsed precision. Their opening number, which was new to me, has the jazzy close harmonies that call to mind Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. The well-chosen numbers are not just a rehash of the old familiar, and included the turn of the century song “A Bird in a Gilded Cage,” sung with poignancy and humor by Amy Paloma Welch, the humorous music hall number “Where Did You Get That Hat?” delivered with panache by Leonardo Lerma, and the entire sextet just nailed “The Carol of the Bells” to the barn door.
Charming Gerardo Macias as an adult Dylan Thomas serves up the bulk of the narrative, while Brayden Bennett takes on the mischievous Young Dylan. As protean actors, Rachel Tully bubbles with energy as Young Dylan’s wiseacre friend Jim, Miss Prothero and a dancing bird, while Andy Kallok takes on Uncle Arthur, the Postman, the Fireman and a Bear.
One of the best things about this production, the action makes the words of Dylan Thomas accessible to young children. Kids in the audience giggled with joy and belly laughed at the silliness. A pair of infant twins in the front row watched entranced without scream or cry. Amazing!
The minimal special effects by designer Tim Leach were just right with projections of falling snow, colorful glitter as water that jets from a hose to put out a fire and, just before the curtain call, real falling snow-like stuff gently coming down from a clearly visible device just downstage of the actors.
The show is unashamedly theatrical, broadly played and utterly delightful. And its brevity means leaving the theatre filled with holiday good cheer.
“A Child’s Christmas in Wales” runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through December 13 at Long Beach Shakespeare Company, 4250 Atlantic Avenue in Long Beach.