If Children Remember | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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If Children Remember

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If Children Remember, Spirit Expressing, at Unity in Chicago. Excitement about the arrival of Santa Claus can overshadow the religious import of Christmas for children. But this shouldn't happen with Ed Townley's If Children Remember, with music by Ed Tossing. Adapted from an L. Frank Baum tale, this musical brims with aphorisms, and the script is heavy with religious overtones (the play's "great teacher" is Jesus). Of course, Townley is a senior minister at Unity in Chicago, a religious organization. But the play's focus on the spiritual underpinnings of Christmas doesn't detract from its message: spirit gods find and care for a mortal baby they name Claus, who decides his destiny is to help mortal children feel loved by giving them gifts. His spirit godparents help ease his burden by offering elves and reindeer.

Some expository dialogue could be excised, but otherwise this musical should enchant children while providing some light entertainment for adults. Costumes, masks, and puppets add to the show's magic, but Randy Price's set is too ambitious: a more minimalist design would have given director Townley more options. And the cast needs to pick up cues more quickly and belt out the songs with more confidence, though there were some standouts among the performers: Bob Kiser as a comically gruff god of animals (Kiser mimicks animal mannerisms), Josh Braaten as the amiable Claus, and David Kafer as the gluttonous god of abundance.

--Jenn Goddu

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