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Review: Charming Santa tale at the Alban Center warms hearts

By Autumn D. F. Hopkins

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Alban Arts Center's Christmas offering of "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus" is a heartwarming adaptation of L. Frank Baum's (author of The Wizard of Oz) children's book of the same name. With an enormous cast of almost 40 people, director Adam Bryan once again bit off an epic production and delivered a charming family-friendly show.

Narrated by Baum (Wyatt Hannah), the tale starts as an infant child -- later named Claus by his adoptive fairy mother -- is found in the forest and taken in by the immortal creatures that inhabit the woods. The King Woodsman (Tony Slack) and Queen (Nikki Williams) allow young Claus (Ethan Lyvers) to stay for a while. But as his mortality and adolescent curiosity become more pronounced they finally decide he must leave the enchanted woods and go live among the humans.

Although Claus is banished from the magical land he can still hear and see the creatures his fellow mortals cannot. The play progresses with visits from the charming Jack Frost (Kyle Casto) and adorable reindeer (Olivia McCoy and Madison McNeil) that talk, laugh, problem-solve and walk on two legs. Other magical creatures visit Claus, but while living among the mortals he realizes his true calling is to bring happiness to children.

It is then that Claus stumbles upon the invention of toys. Claus explains the etymology of the word "toy" as being derived from "trinkets that bring joy." The entire play is laced with delightful little jewels like this. Many lines from beloved Christmas carols are worked into the dialogue for hidden giggles.

The play is a perfect option for a family holiday outing. It is only a little over an hour long so the kids won't get restless, there are plenty of colorful costumes and scenery, lots of action and clever dialogue so take the family out for a trip through St. Albans' Festival of Lights then head over to catch the show.

I will note that although the Awgwas, the play's villains, are silly and witty, they are a tad dark and may be somewhat frightening for the youngest audience members.

"The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus" runs Dec. 13, 14, 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 15 and 22 at 2 p.m. tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for seniors and children under 12. Go see it and let a little Christmas magic touch your heart.

Reach Autumn D.F. Hopkins at autumn.hopkins@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.


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