The Christmas Miracle
of Jonathan Toomey
Direction and Book by Timothy Gregory
An old-fashioned, tear-jerking Christmas charmer
|Provision Theater presents|
|The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey|
Review by Katy Walsh
Christmas is the new offensive C-word. To be politically correct, people say ‘happy holidays.’ They send holiday cards. They host holiday parties. Only in private circles in hushed tones, might I inquire casually, ‘do you celebrate Christmas?’ If the person nods affirmatively, I muster up a hurried whispered ‘Merry Christmas.’ Even on stage, The Nutcracker, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer skim the Christmas wrapping and never really identify the day’s original significance. A Christmas Carol comes closest to being religiously offensive. Bob Cratchit offers up Tiny Tim’s philosophy that it might be nice to remember who made the blind man see. Of course, Bob never mentions J_ _ _ _ by name. Where is the Christ in Christmas? Well, for all those who love the baby Jesus, he’s been sighted on Roosevelt. It’s a Christmas miracle!
Provision Theater Company presents an original holiday musical, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey. A mother and her son move to a frontier town. They are starting over after the death of their husband/father. Life out west is an adjustment; , and the holidays are coming. To bring a little of their past to their present, Thomas wants to get the local woodcarver to make a nativity scene. But the craftsman nicknamed Gloomy Toomey isn’t interested in helping the newcomers. He wants seclusion. He wants to be left alone. He wants to skip Christmas. It’s going to take a miracle for Thomas to whittle away at Mr. Toomey’s resistance. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey is an old-fashioned, tear-jerking Christmas charmer.
Upon arrival, a bluegrass quartet is setting the tone with acoustical Christmas carols. The atmosphere is festive and rustic. The wooden set, designed by Inseung Park, seems the ideal scenery for a woodcarver’s miracle. Individual boxed sections pivot for outdoors-indoors dual purpose. Under the direction of Timothy Gregory, the large cast of adults and children slide and spin the well-crafted rooms into place. Gregory often camouflages the scenery transition with the townsfolk carolers. The chorus efforts are wondrous yuletide offerings. Both adults and children sound powerful in collective harmonies. Individually, accompanied only by the offstage string quartet, soloists struggle to keep an even delivery. It doesn’t hinder my enjoyment because the whole experience is Christmas made simple! It’s about the community celebrating the Baby Jesus. Provision Theatre takes us back to the basics.
From the beginning, I felt like the show could be a spin-off of “Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman.” The simple story has a young woman and her son befriending the town hermit. It enchants with an uncomplicated plot. The vibe is friendly and welcoming. It’s stepping back in time to an easier place. All the town folk seem to be truly enjoying the experience and each other. This is a place to visit. My favorite part is the kids. Unlike the Goodman’s Cratchit kids, these actors get to talk and play without adults present. It feels almost school-like pageantry. Despite loving all the kids two stand out for their stage presence. Making his theatrical debut, Nate Becker (James) is adorably impish. (I want to get him and actor Mike Nussbaum on the same stage for an adorability chart buster.) Playing his sister, Megan Delaney is a diva-in-training. Ms. Delaney carries herself with star-in-the-making confidence.
Christmas is about Jesus and children. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey focuses on both. Provision Theatre captures the true meaning of Christmas in this quaint, sentimental inspiration.
The Christmas Miracle… continues through December 23rd at Provision Theater, 1001 W. Roosevelt (map), with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $10-$30, and are available by phone (866-811-4111) or online here (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at ProvisionTheater.org. (Running time: 80 minutes with no intermission)
All photos by John Hockberger
James Rank (Jonathan Toomey), Lia Mortenson (Sarah McDowell), Michael Saguto (Thomas McDowell), Mary Redmoon, Kevin O’Brien, Steven Lyons, Angela Alise Johnson, Amanda Hartley, Monica Szaflik (ensemble); Jordan Wallace, Kendall Gregory, Nate Becker, Megan Delaney, Jacob Patrick Becker, Eden Elyse Strong (children’s ensemble)
behind the scenes
Timothy Gregory (director); Inseung Park (scenic design); Mike Stanfill (lighting); Rossella Nitti (costumes); Jason Clark (tech director); Joe Dybdal (props); Matthew McMullen (stage manger); Sarah Luse (production manager); John Hockberger (photos)
3Words: Always adding joy to my holiday festivities, James describes it with ‘A Holiday Miracle.’