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Twas The Night Before Christmas Poem

December 6, 2013 by  

Twas The Night Before Christmas Poem, ‘Twas the weekend before Thanksgiving, and all through the city, theaters prepared for their holiday shows, from traditional to not-so-pretty.

Fortunately, one of the first holiday productions to open this season is not only pretty, it’s charming and warm and sets the perfect tone for Christmas. It’s also new to the area, which is a welcome bonus, when most of the holiday theatrical offerings are shows that have been done before, or to death in some cases.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, which tells a partially fictionalized story behind Clement C. Moore’s classic poem, is making its North Texas premiere at Dallas Children’s Theater through Dec. 22. Written by Jennifer Kirkeby and Shirley Meir, the production was commissioned and first produced by Stages Theatre Co. in Minnesota in 2009.

For its North Texas debut, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas is directed by DCT Executive Artistic Director Robyn Flatt, who leads a large cast by DCT standards. She’s assisted in bringing the familiar poem to life by Doug Miller as associate director and choreographer and Vonda Bowling as musical director. Their combined efforts result in a heart-warming Christmas card for area audiences.

When we meet Clement Moore, he’s faced with the challenge of writing the New York Evening Post’s annual Christmas piece, which is expected not only by the paper’s readers, but also by President James Monroe, who traditionally reads the newspaper’s annual holiday offering to his children every year. Moore reluctantly takes on the task — he considers himself to be a “serious writer.” Moore tackles the project at home, surrounded by his wife and five children on Christmas Eve.

The real Clement C. Moore wrote the poem for his own children, according to the Poetry Foundation. He had six children at the time, and recited the poem for them on Christmas Eve in 1822. The Moore family eventually included nine children. Moore was indeed a serious writer, author of historical biographies and books on language. But he also was a poet. His most famous poem was published anonymously as “A Visit from St. Nicholas” the year after it was written. It wasn’t until 1844 that Moore was credited with the poem in an anthology of works by New York poets.

The charming, fictionalized version weaves in holiday magic to help Moore with his writer’s block in the form of giggly sugar plum fairies, toys coming to life, and of course, St. Nick himself. Along with Moore’s family, they contribute clever phrases and ideas that break through Moore’s writer’s block.

As Clement Moore, Brad Jackson showcases his natural storytelling abilities and physical comedy skills. His interactions with the sugar plum fairies are sweet and awkward. As his wife, Catherine, Monique Abry achieves the balance of being a loving mom and family disciplinarian as her frazzled husband tries to meet a deadline on a night that was meant for family time. She also contributes a lovely voice, featured in her song, “This is the Time.”

Other standouts in the cast of 24 are Finley Jennings, the exuberant and outspoken daughter, Charity, who punctuates her outbursts with “oh, pickles!” and Deborah Brown as the gossipy caroler, Ruth. The Moores are fortunate to have strong carolers in their neighborhood, anchored by well-known local talents including Brown, Sheran Goodspeed Keyton and Wendy Welch.

When it comes to design, the exquisite costumes by Lyle Huchton take center stage. Each piece is beautifully detailed and accessorized. Be sure to look closely at the sugar plum fairies. Each one has something just different enough to make them unique individuals—like snowflakes.

The story unfolds in the Moore’s home, a large, warm, wood-toned expanse of a house decorated for Christmas with greenery and bows. In real life, Moore’s family lived in a mansion in an area of Manhattan that would become Chelsea Square. H. Bart McGeehon’s set, with its high arched windows and carved mantel over the fireplace looks like it was transported directly from that place and time.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas is a delightful mix of story, whimsy, magic and song. It can be enjoyed by the whole family, but probably best for children 5 and older. The younger ones may not recognize Moore’s story at first, but when it’s time for the classic poem to come to life, it’s Christmas magic.

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