Tuesday, 14 December 2010

FIELD TRIP - "THE GIFT" - A Christmas Drama

Decorating for Christmas

It's a Christmas tradition - as every year (at least for the past 15), Southridge Community Church in Lloydminster has staged an elaborate musical theatre presentation.  And 2010 was no exception!

This season the play was called "The Gift."  It was based on a book by Janet Preus, with music by Ed Kee and T. W. Hale. The drama, however, was actually inspired by O. Henry's classic Christmas story, "The Gift of the Magi."  This is one of O. Henry's most famous stories.  It was included in The Four Million, his first collection of short stories, which was published in 1906, and it has been anthologized many times since then.

The program notes tell us "the story contains many of the elements for which O. Henry is widely known, including poor, working-class characters, a humorous tone, realistic detail, and a surprise ending.  A major reason given for its enduring appeal is its affirmation of unselfish love.  O. Henry paints a masterly portrait of an unfaltering love, a sweet haven from the harsh world outside."

It also states that " 'The Gift' is a delightfully entertaining Broadway-style musical theatre production which tells this story of sacrificial love at Christmas.  Set in the early 1900's, this moving story is told with tenderness and humor, yet makes a powerful statement about love, commitment and sacrifice.  Featuring detailed sets, beautiful costumes, character-driven songs, and memorable and engaging music - this production promises to be an evening of wholesome entertainment which will be enjoyed by the whole family."

Southridge presented the show from December 8th through 12th at both dinner theatres and free admission performances.  The (approximately) 2-hour long peformance featured Brad Berkan as the dramatic, musical and artistic director. John was working Sunday evening and the children and I were home alone.  Since we do not have many opportunities to see actual on-stage dramatics, I decided to take Alisdair and Isobel on a little field trip!  It was the final presentation of the season and it seemed a shame to miss the opportunity.

Luckily we left home in plenty of time as I had a bit of difficulty finding the church in the dark.  We arrived just in time and found seats fairly near the front in the sanctuary.  And then the lights began to dim and the cast appeared from out of nowhere - coming down the aisles, and then stopping and singing a medley of Christmas carols just a few feet from our seats, before proceeding onto the main stage.

Isobel was especially enthralled, telling me, "This is my first play ever!"  After the show, Alisdair laughed and said, "This was worth getting lost for!"

Shoppers on the Street

The musical was set in the early 1900's in New York City, just a few days before Christmas.  Jim and Della want to get each other the perfect present, but neither has much money to spend.  And so, Jim sells his grandfather's pocket watch to obtain the funds to purchase tortoiseshell hair combs for his bride, Della.  And Della, in turn, cuts and sells her hair to raise the necessary funds to get Jim a shiny chain for his pocket watch.

The First Act featured many catchy tunes including, "With a Watch Like That" and "A Woman's Crowning Glory is her Hair."  Both the costumes and set were spectacular and we were transported into Jim and Della's world until the intermission, when a collection was taken to help support the Tanzania Children Rescue Centre in Mwanza, Tanzania, East Africa, which currently houses over 110 needy children.

The curtain fell and an equally impressive Act Two began.  Joel McCaw and Kathryn Edwards brought Jim and Della to life, as they exchanged their gifts and learned of the sacrifices each had made for the other. All too soon it was over, as the cast exited the auditorium out the doors and into the foyer to greet their audience as we left the building.  Isobel wanted to go talk to some of the cast members and she told them what a good job they had done.

Before we had even left the church Isobel told me, "I liked it that it all worked out and nobody got mad!"  Then Monday morning Isobel was on the phone to Grandma and Grandpa and began to tell them about the play.   "She sell-d-ed her hair and he sell-d-ed his watch," she explained, before telling them how it got dark and the lights went out when they "moved the furniture around!"  I was impressed that although she is only five-years old, she could understand the complications of the plot and retain the information!

I was glad we had bundled up and braved the cold and snow (and possibly icy roads) so we could take in "The Gift."  It truly was a gift -- from the company and cast itself and the entire congregation of Southridge Community Church, to everyone who was able to take in the production.  I'm sure my children will be begging me to take them back next season!

O. Henry concluded his story with these words:

"The magi, as you know, were wise men—wonderfully wise men—who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi."

  • All photos were taken from the Lloydminster Meridian Booster website PHOTO GALLERY since photography was not permitted at the event, due to copyright restrictions.

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