Over the years, this time of year has become one where “holiday Plays” dominate the theater scene. “A Christmas Carol” has led the parade for many decades ( not just the famous Goodman production, but many others) and of course “It’s A Wonderful Life” rings our bell in regular productions as well as radio productions. We have had “The Christmas Schooner” for many years and now a multitude of versions of “Miracle on 34th Street. It is high time something new hit the scene and Paula Vogel’s “A Civil War Christmas: An American Musical celebration”, now onstage at Northlight in Skokie is just the right thing.
Let’s look at this story- it is Christmas 1864. While many little character studies take place, one of the key stories is that of a recently freed slave who becomes separated from her daughter in Washington, D.C. During the entire show, we watch this story amongst the others that deal with family, communal hope and reconciliation. The stories involve President Lincoln and his wife’s search for the perfect Christmas tree. This is just one of the looks at the different values of the characters involved. The music used is a combination of typical holiday music mixed with Gospel ( oh, I wish there had been even more Gospel) and has a cast composed of some of Chicago’s best regional actors. Felicia P. Fields ( more Gospel would have given her a bit more to sing), the always reliable Paula Scrofano( who takes on Mary Todd Lincoln showing just a little bit of her insanity), Samuel Roberson, Mildred Marie Langford ( as the mother who never gives up hope), Khori Faison ( as the daughter who keeps her search alive as well), Will Clinger ( who does a solid Abe Lincoln), David Girolmo, The always funny Alex Goodrich, James Earl Jones II, Bethany Jorgensen, and David Hasenstab ( among his characters is one John Wilkes Booth).
There are also kids- a lot of talented kids who in years to come you will see more of in productions on our stages. Some very talented performers: Allie Brodsky,Matt Chappelle,Gil Ghitis,Gaby Godinez ( the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree), Elijah Griffin,Matt Kuyawa,Kelsey MacDonald, Natalie Miller, Patrick Weber, Kara Weisenstein, Maggie Wolf and Kevin Woodrow, all local kids who have studied either at Northwestern University or Northlight Theatre Academy.
Director, Henry Godinez, has framed this story to tell all the stories of the people in this time of our history. The war and the trauma that it left behind for our country. In fact, there are Southerners who still think the war is going on. Ms. Vogel has studied the era and has penned her characters as she sees them. How African Americans moved into mainstream society , or didn’t. How people change as the need arises and how we as a country changed from the experience. This is a play that may not be factual and that true historians might feel is sheer lunacy, but I found it to be entertaining and even I may have picked up a new slant on the events of the time. I have always found Godinez to be a true artists and in the past have sat in during early rehearsals of one of his shows. He allows the actors to help him paint the portrait of their characters and does so to make the entire production a memorable experience for his audience. Once again, he hits the nail on the head!
“A Civil War Christmas” will continue at Northlight Theatre located in Skokie at 9501 Skokie Blvd ( just South of Golf Rd/Route 58) and Old Orchard Center through December 19th with performances as follows:
Tuesdays(11/23,11/30 and 12/7 ONLY) at 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays ( except 12/1) 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursdays 7:30 p.m. ( except Turkey Day),Fridays at 8 p.m.,Saturdays 2;30 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. except 12/5 and 12/12 when the evening show will start at 6 p.m.)
Tickets range from $45-$55 and there are some “day of discounted tickets at $20*
To order yours call the box office 847-673-6300 or online, visit www.nortlight.org
* subject to availability and can only be purchased at the box office or by phone on DAY OF PERFORMANCE you would be attending.
There is plenty of free parking and FYI- “Northlight Gives Back” is a program where the theater will recognize YOUR not-for profit organization and for every ticket sold through it, make a donation back to your organization. For more info on this very special community program, call 847-679-9501 xt 3319