Review: “Twas the Night Before Christmas” at Casa Manana

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Shawn Stalter

  • Contributing Critic - Dallas/Ft. Worth

Fresh off the heels of a Thanksgiving spent with friends and family comes an energetic and heartwarming holiday romp through New York City on Christmas eve courtesy of the talented cast and crew of Casa Manana’s “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” With uptempo, high-energy fueled song and dance, it shook the audience out of a Black Friday-induced commercialized stupor for a glimpse into the heart of what makes the holiday season the most wonderful and magical time of the year.

The story, written and directed by Joe Sturgeon, follows a  young Molly Midkiff, performed by Maddox Rogers, and her mother, Mary Midkiff, played by Laura Lyman Payne, as they traverse iconic New York City locales on a holiday scavenger hunt. This journey isn’t all sugar plums and candy canes, however, as its deeper, underlying purpose focuses on raising Molly’s spirits as she struggles with the painful absence of a loved one. Along the way, Molly and her mother receive some unexpected assistance from a pair of playful and quick-witted citizens of the North Pole performed by Laura Wetsel as “Jingle” and Emily J. Pace as “Jangle,” dispatched by the big man in the red suit to lend a helping hand.

Many locals, as well as those who carefully scanned the playbill, discovered that this season’s performance of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” held a special meaning for this Fort-Worth, Texas-based cast and crew. Six years ago to the day, child actor Caleb Midkiff tragically passed away unexpectedly on his way to the final tech rehearsal for this dynamic production. Casa Manana dedicates this year’s production to honor Caleb’s memory and his love for the theatre.

This talented cast’s exuberant choreography and sweet vocal stylings snapped the audience out of a turkey-induced slumber and propelled both old and young alike into the underlying spirit of the season. With upbeat holiday classics and a wide array of pop hit-inspired parodies, “Twas the Night Before Christmas” is precisely the bouncy, yet solemn, celebration we all need to facilitate our journey into the boundless joy of the holidays and help recapture the essence of its deeper meaning.

“Twas the Night Before Christmas” stars Laura Wetsel as “Jingle,” Emily J. Pace as “Jangle,” Laura Lyman Payne as “Mary Midkiff,” and Maddox Rogers as “Molly Midkiff.” Written and directed by Joe Sturgeon, “Twas the Night Before Christmas” features musical direction by Chris Widomski, lighting design by David Neville, scene design by Mike Sabourin, sound design by Eric Norris, costumes by Tammy Spencer and hair, wigs and make-up by Catherine Petty-Rogers.

“Twas the Night Before Christmas” runs through December 23rd, 2018 at Casa Manana located at 3101 West Lancaster Avenue in Fort Worth, Texas. For more information or to reserve your seat, please visit Casa Manana’s website at www.casamanana.org.

Photo credit: Chip Tompkins