Culture Magazine

Review: The Gifts of the Magi (Porchlight Music Theatre)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

 

Review: The Gifts of the Magi (Porchlight Music Theatre)
  
  
The Gifts of the Magi 

 

By Mark St. Germain (book/lyrics) 
   and Randy Courts (music/lyrics)
Directed by Mark Lococo
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map)
thru Dec 30  |  tickets: $39   |  more info
  
Check for half-price tickets 
  
  
  

 


     

     

An unfocused holiday premiere loses way from first note 

     

Review: The Gifts of the Magi (Porchlight Music Theatre)

  

Porchlight Music Theatre presents

  

The Gifts of the Magi

Review by Clint May 

Boy do I wish I could say this production, based on the famous short story by O. Henry, was destined to become a new holiday staple.

Sorry.  Not going to happen.

Instead, Porchlight Music Theatre’s The Gifts of the Magi debuts as a culmination of discrete poor decisions from every avenue with a culminative effect that can only be described as ‘strained.’

Review: The Gifts of the Magi (Porchlight Music Theatre)
You can quickly read the famous original tale anywhere online. It’s more of a long setup to a sweet little punchline of situational irony—with a nice moral—than anything. What the team at Porchlight has done is stretched and embellished it with music, sub-plots, and stylizations that eradicate nostalgic sweetness and replace it with a Hallmarkian manufactured magic.

Jim (Jason Richards) and Della (Chelsea Morgan) are a poor couple living in New York at the turn of the last century. Christmas approaches, and neither can afford a gift when they have to haggle over pennies for every purchase. Their fateful decision to use their most cherished possessions (her hair and his watch) to buy the other a gift to complement said possessions (a fob and a set of combs) is one of the most referenced inventions of literature.

Book author Mark St. Germain, of Freud’s Last Session fame, apparently didn’t trust the source material enough to leave it at that. There’s an inexplicable choice to add a vaudevillian character in the form of Soapy Smith (Kevin McKillip)—from O. Henry’s “The Cop and the Anthem” — who provides some theoretically funny interludes as a wandering tramp trying unsuccessfully to get arrested for a free warm bed during the holidays. He interacts with Jim and tempts him with his carefree lifestyle, but other than that I can find no real reason for his inclusion. Avatars of the city itself, Heather Townsend and Gerald Richardson play several roles as needed, with newsboy Willy Porter (Nate Lewellyn) providing narration and insight.

Review: The Gifts of the Magi (Porchlight Music Theatre)
So much of this show doesn’t work that I don’t know where to begin. The instrumentation is overly loud and far too Sondheim-esque for a comfortable margin of originality, with unsophisticated lyrics (e.g, rhyming ‘Siam’ with ‘I am’). That could be forgiven if the ensemble had the vocals to elevate that hokiness, but they can barely be heard over the ever-punctuating piano at times and lack the needed depth at others. Lewellyn certainly looks his part, but bookending the production with his unremarkable numbers is yet another strange decision. Director Mark Lococo has the talented McKillip mugging for all it’s worth as the tramp, and a heavy-handed style that eliminates potential charms that may have existed for the Dillinghams with a more subtle fine-tuning.

Expanding this short story also means adding some unsavory bellicosity to Jim and an almost misogynistic ‘beaten housewife’ personality to Della. There’s no chemistry between Morgan and Richards, even when they’re singing of their love for each other after Jim angrily berates a meek Della for asking about his job search. Her subservience is an anachronism that makes this production less than timeless. There’s no new insight, and given how great Last Session was at pithy characterizations coupled with concept, my disappointment in this St. Germain and Lococo spin on a favorite story is crushing to say the least.

Rarely do I call attention to a price tag on a ticket, but for nearly forty dollars for a 90-minute musical (that feels like 2 hours), The Gifts of the Magi is not the window to an intimate tale of loving sacrifice it should be. With so many quality holiday productions vying for the coveted family-friendly dollars, this is one ‘gift’ for which you may find yourself wishing you’d kept the receipt.

  

Rating:

  

  

The Gifts of the Magi continues through December 30th at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map), with performances Fridays and Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 2pm. Tickets are $39, and are available by phone (773.327.5252) or online at Stage773.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More info at PorchlightMusicTheatre.org.  (Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission)

Review: The Gifts of the Magi (Porchlight Music Theatre)

Photos by Kelsey Jorissen


     

artists

cast

Chelsea Morgan (Della Dillingham), Jason Richards (Jim Dillingham), Kevin McKillip  (Soapy Smith), Nate Lewellyn (Willy Porter), Heather Townsend (The City – Her), Gerald Richardson (The City – Him), Lauren Paris, David Geinosky, Tom Vendafreddo (understudies)

behind the scenes

Mark Lococo (director), Elizabeth Doran (music director), Brenda Didier  (choreographer), Doug Peck (music supervisor), Deborah Blumenthal (assistant director, dramaturg Intern), William Boles (set designer), William C. Kirkham (lighting), Bill Morey (costumes), Victoria Delorio (sound design), Barbara Trinh (properties designer), Thom Van Ermen (stage manager), Patrick Fries (production manager), Kelsey Jorissen (photos)


You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Father James Martin's Bridge-Building Metaphor and Call to Mutual Respect Betwee...

    Father James Martin's Bridge-Building Metaphor Call Mutual Respect Between Catholic Leaders LGBTQ Community: Critical Commentary

    I have not read Father James Martin's new book Building a Bridge, which calls on the pastoral leaders of the Catholic church to collaborate with the LGBTQ... Read more

    The 22 June 2017 by   William Lindsey
    LGBTQ, RELIGION, SOCIETY
  • Caution: This Can Cause Addiction

    Caution: This Cause Addiction

    I opened my low-carb/keto clinic with Nurse Sylvie in February 2017, inside the medical clinic where I do my regular general practice. To get people to enroll,... Read more

    The 22 June 2017 by   Dietdoctor
    DIET & WEIGHT, HEALTH, HEALTHY LIVING, MEDICINE
  • Review - Vichy Mineral 89 Skin Fortifying Daily Booster

    I'm always battling with dry and dehydrated skin.. even when I do nothing different, my skin will... Click for Read more

    The 22 June 2017 by   Chantana
    HAIR & BEAUTY, LIFESTYLE
  • Talk Show Host: Not Here to Make Friends

    Talk Show Host: Here Make Friends

    photo: Harley Haskett Toronto based Talk Show Host are quick to release a new EP. Not Here to Make Friends sounds cheerful and angry at the same time,... Read more

    The 22 June 2017 by   Hctf
    ENTERTAINMENT, MUSIC
  • The Human Design... Not All Bad!

    Human Design... Bad!

    Whatever or whoever it was that designed the human, had to have been at the least, a sadist. Now the design isn’t all that bad, it’s just that there were a few... Read more

    The 22 June 2017 by   Skip1957
    DIARIES, SELF EXPRESSION
  • Citrus Marshmallow Sundaes

    Citrus Marshmallow Sundaes

    We all know what a Sundae is, and I am sure we have all secretly had one at some stage in our lives even those of us who are now on the healthy no sugar […] Read more

    The 22 June 2017 by   Shadesofcinnamon
    FOOD & DRINK, RECIPES
  • Konkani Style, Hog Plum Pickle…

    Konkani Style, Plum Pickle…

    Summer is full of Sun, fun, travel yumminess.. For those who love Mangoes its the season.. The kids have vacations... The markets are filled with an amazing... Read more

    The 22 June 2017 by   Anithanayak
    FOOD & DRINK, RECIPES