The Academy of Performing Arts is getting into the Christmas spirit early this year with some beloved holiday characters. Their completely child-focused show is a mixture of two Christmas readings and “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
The homegrown celebration starts off with Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” professionally narrated by Richard Wilber. The Grinch is dramatically played by Alison Collins, who mimes the redemptive story. Her facial grimaces are spot on, as she slinks throughout Cindy Lou’s house, stealing everything that resembles Christmas.
Connor Pike is the Grinch’s faithful yet reluctant dog, Max, while The Whos in Whoville are portrayed by a cast of middle schoolers.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” mirrors the classic television special, beginning with the ice skating scene, as the children mimic gliding on stage. Mac Collins is the socially challenged Charlie Brown, who can’t muster any joy for the season. Collins comically captures Charlie Brown’s lackluster persona. Feeling weighed down by all of the commercialism, he seeks help from Lucy at her psychiatrist booth.
Alexis Delano (she shares the role with Emma Blankenship) is an appropriately demanding Lucy, who diagnoses Charlie Brown’s depression. She strongly suggests he gets involved in Christmas, by becoming the director of their Christmas pageant.
Mya Neal is a pragmatic Sally, who believes it best if Santa just sends her money, specifically “tens and twenties,” when she dictates her Christmas wish list to her big brother Charlie Brown.
Playing Snoopy, Connor Pike embodies’ the dog’s cool attitude. Hungry for dinner, he dances around the stage with his empty dog bowl held high, and then presents it to an uninterested Charlie Brown with a flourish.
Julien Lajoie portrays Linus with a confident edge and is a reliable sounding board for Charlie Brown, especially when he explains the true meaning of Christmas in his memorable monologue.
When Pig-Pen (Stella Cole) is given the role of the innkeeper in the Christmas pageant, Cole conscientiously quips, “Despite my outward appearance, I will try to keep a neat inn!”
As the piano-playing Schroder, Lucie Jackett ardently defends Beethoven. Emma Blankenship flaunts her “naturally curly hair” playing Freida. And Meadow Clark confidently rounds out the Peanuts gang as Violet.
Director Peter Earle ends the 65-minute show (which includes an intermission) with the cast gathering around Richard Wilber, for an on-stage reading of “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” by Clement Clark Moore. The lively reading is assisted by the sounds of jingle bells from the cast and Alison Collins portraying Santa. Technical director Geof Newton’s original sound design and hand-drawn screen projections by Ellen Birmingham round out the selections.
With an interactive touch, children are invited down to the stage, to sit next to their favorite Peanuts character, as they listen to Moore’s Victorian tale together and directly partake in the spirit of the season.
What:“A Charlie Brown Christmas and Celebration”
Where: The Academy of Performing Arts, 120 Main St., Orleans
When: Through Dec. 30
Tickets: Call 508-255-1963