Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Quest for Claus: The Musical
Brelby Theatre Company
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's recent reviews of Mamma Mia!, Good 'N' Plenty, Our Town, Twist Your Dickens, The Herd, and The Velveteen Rabbit


Michael Moramarco and Brian Maticic
Photo Courtesy Brelby Theatre Company
The original Brelby Theatre Company musical Quest for Claus: The Musical is both an original story and an adventure tale that uses the tradition of telling children a story on Christmas Eve to musicalize how one ended up becoming Santa Claus. While it could use a better opening and runs a little long, it is still fun and charming and Brelby's cast features three talented leads who bring plenty of humor and poignancy to this show.

One Christmas Eve a mother decides to read her son a story he has never heard before that tells the truth about Santa. It turns out that the job of being Santa is something that is carried down from generation to generation within one family. While Nick, Santa's oldest son, is the next in line to take over his father's responsibilities, his dad doesn't think he's quite ready. So Nick sets off on a quest to find a way to become the newest Santa. With his trusted friend Jack Frost along for the journey, the story sends the duo to various lands within the holiday kingdom where they encounter other holiday characters including Clara and the Nutcracker from "The Nutcracker" and the Easter Bunny. It also humorously shows how some iconic images and individuals, such as Santa's ability to circle the globe in one night and Frosty the Snowman, came to be.

The book by Brian Maticic, Luke Gomez and Shelby Maticic has plenty of humorous dialogue and a bevy of theatrical characters that add elements of wit and fun. The score by Ben Cleaveland features some charming songs and varied musical styles. However, the opening is very slow and the show gets bogged down a bit, mainly due to some supporting characters that get solo songs that could be trimmed to speed up the pace, and the ending, while clever, could also use a big song to send the audience out on a holiday high. I like Cleaveland's writing style and I wish he and the bookwriters would come up with a really rousing opening number to introduce Nick and Jack and the mom and her son in a way that would really set the whole show up for the adventure element that it focuses on. Also, the character of Jack adds plenty of slapstick and humor, but he disappears for a large part of the show, especially in the middle, which tends to bring the energy level down a bit. On the plus side, the way the show incorporates the son into Nick's story is adorable and the ending, while slightly predictable, finds a nice way to tie the whole storyline together.

The Brelby cast features a trio of leads who are all adept in portraying Nick, Jack and the woman Nick meets along the way and becomes enamored with, Layla. Michael Moramarco is charming and lovable as Nick while Alexandra Utpadel is feisty as the headstrong Layla. As the irresponsible and rambunctious Jack, Brian Maticic is playful and full of mischief and joy. Moramarco and Utpadel get several songs to sing where their clear, strong voices excel. In the supporting cast, James Beneze is an absolute hoot as the evil and campy Rat King and Jamie Maletz Watts is simply adorable as the sad, lonely and misunderstood yeti Bumble.

In addition to co-writing and playing Jack, Maticic designed the set and, while it is a simple, stagnant design, it affords various playing locations with some cut out areas and video projections that humorously bring the characters out of the "page" of the large storybook set piece and onto the stage. The combination of Jaren Navenma's creative costumes and the imaginative hair and makeup designs from Kim See evoke the many familiar holiday characters in the show. The costume for Bumble is simply superb.

Brelby's Quest for Claus: The Musical may not be perfect, but with a game cast and fun creative elements it still amounts to a fun, family friendly holiday show. With a few more tweaks and edits I think it could be a show that more theatre companies would be interested in presenting as an alternative to the more standard Christmas theatrical shows that most companies present year after year.

The Brelby Theatre Company production of Quest for Claus: The Musical runs through December 18th, 2016, with performances at 7154 N 58th Drive in Glendale. Tickets are available at www.brelby.com or by phone at (623) 282-2781.

Book by Brian Maticic, Luke Gomez And Shelby Maticic
Music and Lyrics by Ben Cleaveland
Director: Shelby Maticic
Scenic and Lighting Design: Brian Maticic
Costume Designer: Jaren Navenma
Hair and Makeup Designer: Kim See
Sound Design: Melody Chrispen
Props Design: Bertha Cortes
Puppet Design: Ilana Lydia, Aaron Na & Erik Na

Cast:
Mother: Sara Walton
Chris: Ian Gray
Nick: Michael Moramarco
Layla: Alexandra Utpadel
Jack Frost: Brian Maticic
Santa Claus- Brandon Sanchez
Mr. Frosty: Cody Luna
Nutcracker: Jonathan Gradilla
Clara: Marina Sharpe
Sugar Plum Fairy: Zoya Page
Rat King: James Beneze
Bumble: Jamie Maletz Watts
Easter Bunny: Sophia Coffey


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