Monday, December 31, 2018

Fremont Street Theater Company's "Mrs. Claus"

In a clever twist on the traditional Santa Claus story, the Fremont Street Theater Company delivered a healthy message about generosity, multiculturalism, and acceptance in the world premiere of a colorful Christmas musical, "Mrs. Claus Saves Christmas Eve," with script, lyrics and music by Sue Mrotek.

The cast of "Mrs. Claus Saves Christmas Eve" joined by friends and audience members.

Adults were just as captivated as the kids by the elaborate costumes and set featuring the magnificent fireplace of the Elgin Art Showcase decked out in holiday trimmings. The characterizations and amusing action directed by Julie Price held childrens' attention, but parents could see something more: a multigenerational cast, a multilingual script, and a story that emphasized values and the better parts of human nature.

The very affordable ticket price of $6 had no bearing on the quality or the talent, as these accomplished performers sang sophisticated solos and combos with superb musical arrangements by A.J. Braman. A more ambitious lighting design could have helped shape some vignettes better, but the staging, seating and sound reflected the considerable experience this group brought to the production.

This was the debut of Fremont's R.A.T.E.!! project -- Raising Awareness through Theater Expression!! -- an effort to engage dual language families through the arts. It clearly has potential in Elgin, where the significant number of multilingual households are currently underserved by English language theater groups and Anglo- and Euro-centric art music.

Alongside Children's Theatre of Elgin, which produces musical theatre by children, R.A.T.E.!! could become an important complement: multilingual musical theatre for children. The next production is planned for Summer 2019, and will be announced soon at