'Twas the Night Before Christmas, as conceived and directed by Joe Sturgeon, is a hodgepodge of a show in which a loose storyline serves as a reason to throw in popular holiday songs. And that might be fine if this were happening at a church with a next-to-nil budget for its holiday offering, or even as an elementary school pageant.
But it's at Casa Mañana Children's Theatre, a professional theater with mostly adult, professional actors and a sizeable budget. As such, the show feels like an afterthought of an afterthought.
Its saving grace is, in fact, that professional cast, which brings serious talent to the vocals and dancing.
The story, as such, is that young Molly (Sara Grace Prejean) is sad that her father (Christopher Deaton) is serving overseas in the military and won't be home for Christmas. So on Christmas Eve, her mother (Mary Gilbreath Grim) tries everything she can think of to keep Molly entertained.
That involves visiting Santa at Macy's, seeing the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall and running into all kinds of street scenes conveniently set up so that the songs are worked in. There's a chorus of children, for instance, doing Carol of the Bells; a quartet of working-class guys that does beautiful renditions of standards like God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen; the terrific Maurice Johnson singing Santa Claus Is Coming to Town; and some fantastic musical theater dance scenes featuring choreographer Jeremy Dumont. One of them has Dumont and Reagan Shankland ice skating, but using inline skates, on Casa's stage.
Two of the best vocal performances, though, bookend the show. Prejean does a plaintive Blue Christmas, wishing her father were there, and Grim sings Where Are You Christmas? marvelously.
The talent is the reason to go -- just don't expect an interesting story with it.