Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Gift of The Magi"

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note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Larry Stark

"The Gift of The Magi"

Based on the short story by O. Henry
Adapted by David Mauriello
Music and Lyrics by Robert Johnson
Directed and Choreographed by D. J. Salisbury
Music Direction & Orchestration by Timothy Evans

Set Design by Dwayne Melcher
Scenic Artist Leo Harrington
Lighting Design by Matt Giamporcaro
Costume Design by El Motif, Lyn Cameron & Lynn Pisano
Stage Manager Steven Malatesta

Della................................Natascha Corrigan
Jim...................................Stephen Crampton
Mrs. Walsh/Ensemble..................Beth Gotha
Monsieur Sofrone/Ensemble.....Dan Dowling
Trudy/Ensemble.................Jeanine Belcastro
The Dandy/Ensemble..........Steven Malatesta

In every sense, the InStages Musical Theater Company's "Gift of The Magi" is a thoroughly professional vest-pocket musical. From the flamboyantly sketched panel-sets that twist into several sets to the two-couple ensemble who twist instantly into ever-new cameo characters, the show is neatly, originally, inventively staged. David Mauriello's book and Robert Johnson's Music and Lyrics add interesting detail to what has become the other legend, along with Dickens', that means Christmas in our time. Still, though the outcome is cliche, the road to it is imaginative, and excellently acted.

This is the kind of tightly-machined show where one can say that the actor playing the baker, the actor playing the hairdresser, and the actor playing the shop-owner are not only excellent, they are the very same Dan Dowling who swells the crowd in his free moments. And he's as mercurially quick as Beth Gotha, Steven Malatesta or Jeanine Belcastro, each of whom would make you think the cast had been augmented by half a dozen. D. J. Salisbury has them whip in and out of accents as quickly as costumes --- and Steven Malatesta even acts as stage manager!

The only people with single roles are the two newlyweds, Natascha Rorrigan and Stephen Crampton, who sing Robert Johnson's music and hit every nuance of David Mauriello's story --- which is much more involved than O. Henry's 1905 classic short-short story.

The only thing wrong with the show is that I shouldn't be using present tense. It has already closed.
But the good thing about it is that this is a second, reworked and improved, annual production, and it will reappear next year!
Reservations are a must, though; the house is vest-pocket too!


"The Gift of The Magi" (till 22 December)
Edward Pickman Concert Hall, 27 Garden Street, CAMBRIDGE

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide