Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

The Quiltmaker's Gift
Theater Works

Also see Gil's reviews of Mother Hicks, A Christmas Carol, Year of the Rooster, Miracle on 34th Street, Tommy J. & Sally


Carolyn Folks and Joshua Vern
"It is better to give than to receive" is something that every one of us was taught at a very young age and also a statement that has even more meaning during the holiday season. That saying is also at the center of the excellent production of The Quiltmaker's Gift playing at Theater Works in Peoria this month.

The show tells the tale of a selfish king who is so greedy, yet unhappy, that he declares his birthday to be celebrated twice a year and demands that all of the peasants in the land must bring him a gift. Though still unhappy from his vast collection of items, he turns to the one person who has yet to give him a gift, the Quiltmaker who lives on the hill. She tells the King that she only makes quilts for the poor and homeless, people who actually need them; since he isn't either of those she won't make a quilt for him or even sell him one. She does tell him that she will make him a quilt if he gives his possessions away—one square of a quilt for each possession. But the selfish King refuses and proceeds to abandon her to various places in hopes that she will finally make him a quilt, believing that having one will finally make him happy. Now, you can pretty much guess how the King's journey to get a quilt will end, but the witty songs and fun lyrics make the ride a very enjoyable one.

Based on the children's book by Jeff Brumbeau, the show has a fun musical score with music by Phoenix composer Craig Bohmler (who also wrote the very adult musical Gunmetal Blues) with witty, charming lyrics from Steven Mark Kohn and a book by Alan J. Prewitt. The show first premiered in town when the Phoenix Theatre presented it in 2002 and has gone on to have productions across the country.

Through a combination of perfect casting and inventive staging, director Rusty Ferracane achieves quite a feat in turning this somewhat simple 70-minute children's tale into a sheer treat for the holidays. Leading the cast is Josh Vern as the King, and Carolyn Folks as the sweet Quiltmaker. Vern has the right blend of comical expressions and vocal prowess to pull off the selfish ruler. His temper tantrums are hilarious and his voice adds a nice luster to the many songs he sings. As the Quiltmaker, Folks brings a lovely sense of sweetness to the part with a dollop of no-nonsense in her dealings with the King. The ensemble is used throughout the show and, while they are all good, Peter Oldak gets a little bit of additional business as a charming bear.

Bohmler is also behind the skilled musical direction for this production and Cydney Trent provides some fun choreography including some intricate marching steps. Thom Gilseth's set design and Tamara Treat's costumes are colorful and creative and Petey Swartz' props are inventive. Brenda Goodenberger's make-up designs give the soldiers' faces some nice comical touches.

Shows with simple life lessons are some of the best ones to introduce children to live theatre. The Quiltmaker's Gift manages to add in a fun, musical score with colorful characters, and the Theater Works production turns the whole event into a fun-filled holiday treat for children, families, and theatergoers of all ages.

The Quiltmaker's Gift runs through December 21st, 2014, at Theater Works at 8355 West Peoria Avenue in Peoria. Tickets can be ordered at theaterworks.org or by calling 623 815-7930.

Directed by Rusty Ferracane
Choreographed by Cydney Trent
Set Designer: Thom Gilseth
Lighting Designer: Daniel Davisson
Costume Designer: Tamara Treat
Hair and Make-Up Designer: Brenda Goodenberger
Props Designer: Petey Swartz

Cast:
Quiltmaker: Carolyn Folks
Chorus King: Joshua Vern
Old Man: Ted Raymond
Child: Katie Tuch/Josh Pike
Soprano: Michele Kahn
Alto: Katie Czajkowski
Tenor: Jonathan Ramirez
Bass: Brian Carmona
Bass/Tenor: Peter Oldak


Photo: Wade Moran / Theater Works

--Gil Benbrook


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for Phoenix


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