It's better to give than receive

The Gifts of the Magi

Music and lyrics by Randy Courts
Book and lyrics by Mark St. Germain
Directed by Stephen Sunderlin
Equity showcase (closed)
Vital Theatre Company
Review by Seth Bisen-Hersh

The Gifts of the Magi is a musical that brings to life a couple of O. Henry's short stories. It was a solid production of a mostly good show. There is a genuine moral and a lot of potential in the material.

The show combines two different tales of want and love. The first concerns a poor couple, Della and Jim Dillingham. Jim has been unable to find a job. They can barely pay the rent, and simply cannot afford to buy each other the Christmas presents they want to give.

The second story follows a bum, Soapy Smith, who wishes desperately to get arrested for the holidays so he can have housing and food for a few months. He tries a myriad of methods, but consistently fails to get arrested due to the good nature of folks during the holiday season.

The show weaves together the subplots. Neither the book or score are outstanding. The dialog is adequate, although not as funny as it wants to be. The lyrics vacillate between fairly clever and banal. The music is textured and layered. The melodies are unpredictable, sometimes in a good way, but not always. Some of the songs feel superfluous to the already scarce plot. A few lingered after a first hearing, but not many.

The cast was mostly talented. The standout performer was Michelle Rosen as City Her. She played a dozen roles throughout the show and made the most of them. A classically trained soprano, Rosen had cute facial expressions and a spark in her eyes that made her a pleasure to watch.

The production was solid. Stephen Sunderlin directed with a skilled eye -- the pacing was kept up even through the duller parts of the script. The staging was spread out nicely. The choreography, by Christine O'Grady, was fun and spry. The costumes, by Aaron P. Mastin, were perfectly period costumes. The set, by Jeff Hinchee, consisted of a pretty blue backdrop and two seemingly magical pictures.

Overall, the show was enjoyable to watch, although a little long. It is not the most amazing gift to the theatre, but O. Henry's message of love and the spirit of giving rang clear. It was a well-timed message for the holiday season.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2004 Seth Bisen-Hersh