Timmy the Gnome (Jerome Lowe) is lonely and sad that the run-down farmhouse he cares for in the snowy woods has no people in it. He shares his sadness with Frank, the local skunk (stuffed, operated and voiced by Laurie McConnell), who also knows what it’s like to be alone as most creatures avoid him. Lo and behold, Leonard and Lulu Bennett, father and daughter (Alan Knoll, Monique Hafen), come to the farmhouse. Lulu is hoping it can be a forever home, as she dislikes moving from house to house. But her father, an inventor of usually defective machines, is there only because he told the landlord, Agatha Tode, that he would fix the place up, which he neglects to do, and, in fact, makes it more messy. Leonard and Lulu discover and make friends with Frank and Timmy, who uses his magic to fix the home up so Agatha Tode won’t throw them out. Leonard’s latest invention becomes a hit when it’s discovered it can turn logs into kindling, which makes Agatha Tode happy. He and Lulu can now make the place their home.
Technically, the show’s set (Scott Loebl) is simple; some painted scenes and lightweight pieces, some held in place with pole struts. That’s more than understandable for a production that is usually on the road throughout the bi-state where probably no two facilities are alike and more than likely not designed for full-blown theater. Music (Composer, Lyricist, and Musical Director Stephan James Neale) and sound effects are pre-recorded, lights don’t change, costumes (Lou Bird) are designed to be quickly put on or taken off, and scene changes take place on the run for the 45-50 minute performance.
A craft table was set up for use outside the theatre before the performance (very busy as I passed it), which was nice, and the program itself was very informative, and even had a Gnome to color on the back.
Was this a successful production? Well, that depends. Its DNA is the St. Louis Repertory Theatre, so we’re talking a professional script, a professional set, professional actors and crew, professional costumes, and professionally produced music (so loud at times I couldn’t hear the actors). But, for a kid’s Holiday show, I found it to be perhaps TOO professional. Professional adults created a professional children’s show that they felt the children wanted. But where was the smudged nose or the missing shoe left stuck in the mud puddle? The song lyrics in general seemed way too involved for the younger set, they were sung quickly (which made some hard to understand), and the accompanying full-orchestration music (just a piano track I feel would have been all that was necessary) just too much. The story was sweet, but sterile. As I sat in the audience, it looked like the kids around me were itching to become more involved in the show, rather than just look at it. Perhaps some audience involvement and interaction would have been nice. Perhaps a simple Holiday-themed song to end the show, with simple lyrics the kids could learn quickly and start to sing with the actors. Just SOME give and take with the Holiday spirit I felt was missing.
A Gnome for Christmas runs about 50 minutes with no intermission. It continues in the Heagney Theatre at Nerinx Hall High School through December 23. For more information, see http://www.repstl.org/itc/.