The Littlest Angel | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Littlest Angel

Emerald City Theatre Company, at the Athenaeum Theatre

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The Littlest Angel, Emerald City Theatre Company, at the Athenaeum Theatre. For its premiere production Emerald City Theatre Company has chosen a story fitting the season: a musical staging of Charles Tazewell's classic radio play, later a book (now celebrating its 50th anniversary in print). In The Littlest Angel a rambunctious young cherub wreaks havoc on the serenity of heaven until he learns the meaning of giving. In Emerald City's adaptation, with book and lyrics by Joseph Robinette and music by Diane Leslie, the angel is a girl (played with joyful comic energy by Jennifer Rule); the musical numbers, aided by Tesha Buss's snappy choreography, make Tazewell's thoughtful work more active.

While Karen Cardarelli's high-energy staging is entertaining, it lacks the book's more subtle charms: sometimes a good thing should be left alone. For instance, to fill out the story Emerald City has created characters not featured in the book, such as the Cook and Toymaker angels. While all the characters are larger than life, the Toymaker angel--the prototype of the old Eastern European Jew, bent over and with a halo clinging low on his head like a skullcap--is the only one for whom ethnicity comes into question. For a holiday show that should affirm some universal truths, this Littlest Angel is somewhat insensitive and loses the beauty of Tazewell's original.

--Gabrielle S. Kaplan

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