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A Child's Christmas in Wales

Theatre Review by David Hurst - December 3, 2018

Margaret Dudasik, Polly McKie, Naomi Louisa O'Connell, Dewey Caddell,
Nicholas Barasch, and Ashley Robinson
Photo by Carol Rosegg

If you prefer your holiday cheer tuneful, sweet and short, you'll do no better than the Irish Repertory Theatre's latest revival of A Child's Christmas in Wales. Based on an autobiographical prose story by the famous Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, A Child's Christmas in Wales has been adapted and directed by the Rep's Artistic Director, Charlotte Moore. Her adaptation consists mainly of the addition of music with a modicum of staging to Thomas's story, and Moore has had plenty of opportunities to get it right since this is the tenth production of the piece since it was first seen at the Rep twenty-two years ago. Fortunately for audiences, this year's incarnation is a pleasure thanks to six talented performers and a dexterous musical director and accompanist.

In this season's incarnation Moore has enlisted the charismatic Nicholas Barasch (She Loves Me) to play Thomas and he's a charmer. With his fresh-scrubbed face and flaming red hair, he's ideally cast as a wide-eyed boy reminiscing about an idyllic, childhood Christmas. Barasch's enthusiasm never cloys and he's a pleasure to watch navigate Thomas's story over the course of 75 intermission-less minutes. Barasch is joined on stage by Ashley Robinson (Tom & Jack), Dewey Caddell (Father & Smoky), Naomi Louisa O'Connell (Mother), Polly McKie (Aunty Hannah) and Margaret Dudasik (Mrs. Prothero) and everyone is terrific. They sing almost 20 songs and carols, and it's a pleasure to hear singers in an intimate space singing unamplified. O'Connell, in particular, has a classically trained soprano that's ravishing in the Rep's tiny theatre.

Key to the success of this A Child's Christmas in Wales is the sensitive piano accompaniment provided by musical director John Bell. Bell plays with a light and delicate touch that signals he understands that less is frequently more with this genre of music. He never covers the singers or overwhelms the song with unnecessary flourishes. His arrangements are gorgeous. It's worth noting Bell is joined occasionally by Dudasik, who complements several numbers with lovely and lively violin playing. It's also worth noting that director Moore has written the music and lyrics for several songs in the score, two of which, "Take My Hand, Tomorrow's Christmas" and "Walking in the Snow" are quite accomplished.

Blessed with a lush and festive set courtesy of James Morgan, the Irish Rep's A Child's Christmas in Wales is the perfect antidote for your inner Grinch. Do yourself a favor and drop in for some sentimentality served in style.

A Child's Christmas in Wales
Through December 30
Irish Repertory Theatre Francis J. Greenburger Mainstage, 132 West 22nd Street
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: OvationTix