"The Gifts of the Magi" (Porchlight Music Theatre): Light-hearted Holiday Romp

"The Gifts of the Magi" (Porchlight Music Theatre):  Light-hearted Holiday Romp

Porchlight Music Theatre presents the Chicago premiere of the musical THE GIFTS OF THE MAGI.  A young married couple financially struggle in 1905 New York.  To ensure their spouse has a wonderful Christmas, they each make a sacrifice.  She sells her hair to buy a watch chain.  He sells his watch to buy barrettes. Meanwhile, a small town hood tries to get arrested but New Yorkers react to his crimes with the Christmas spirit.  Just in time for the holiday season, THE GIFTS OF THE MAGI unwraps thoughtful and playful acts.

I’m a huge fan of the profound and simplistic message of O. Henry’s short story. To me, it symbolizes the crux of the holiday.  Mark St. Germain takes this beautiful lovers’ story and interweaves it with slapstick comedy.  As Jason Richards (Jim) and Chelsea Morgan (Della) tenderly express their love, Kevin McKillip (Soapy Smith) yucks it up with vaudevillian-style schtick.  The combination definitely loosens up the holiday drama.  Under the direction of Mark Lococo and choreography of Brenda Didier, one scene twirls into another.  “The Restaurant” bit gets laughs and then the mood shifts as we return to Jim and Della’s financial woes. The balancing act keeps the sentimentality from getting too sappy or melodramatic. Although I tend to like my O. Henry straight up and tear-inducing, this amalgamation works as a light-hearted, holiday romp.

If you sit in the left section of this theatre, the experience will be more concert than play.  In the past, I have found The Thrust at Stage 773 to be acoustically challenged. This time, the orchestra trio, Elizabeth Doran (conductor/piano), Christina Foster & Brent Roman (percussion), are placed to the left of the stage and behind a plexiglass half-wall.  The sprightly musicians dazzle.  The robust holiday sound fills the theatre with concert hall cheer.  So much so, from my seat, even with microphones, the actors singing was muffled and distant. Still, the music was a spectacular jam.  To effectively add singing to your concert experience, arrive early for a seat in the center section.

Running Time:  Eighty-five minutes with no intermission

At Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont

Based on two short stories by O. Henry, “The Gift of the Magi” and “The Cop and the Anthem”

Book by Mark St. Germain

Music by Randy Courts

Lyrics by Randy Courts and Mark St. Germain

Directed by Mark Lococo

Music direction by Elizabeth Doran

Fridays at 8pm

Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm

Sundays at 2pm

Thru December 23rd

Buy Tickets at www.stage773.com

Production photo by Kelsey Jorissen

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