Great suffering often generates great moments. So in the local West Coast premiere of the musical play ‘A Christmas Memory’ at the Sierra Madre Playhouse we are treated to an expression of both the struggle and the love in the life of a young boy being raised in the rural South during the Great Depression. Twenty years later the boy, now a man and a successful writer, returns to the home of his youth and discovers or perhaps rediscovers the genesis of his next bestselling book.
‘A Christmas Memory’ is based on a short story by Truman Capote creator of such American classics as ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and ‘In Cold Blood.’ In 1967 Capote won an Emmy Award for the television adaption of ‘A Christmas Memory.’ Now the show has opened at the fabled Sierra Madre Playhouse, one of Southern California’s finest theatres and recent recipient of two Ovation Award nominations.
‘A Christmas Memory’ at the Sierra Madres Playhouse is directed and choreographed by Alison Eliel Kalmus who also directed ‘The Gondoliers, The Sound of Music’ and ‘Narnia’ at Sierra Madre Playhouse.
The entire cast of ‘A Christmas Memory’ gives a solid performance but, the stand outs are the young and clearly talented Ian Branch as young Buddy, Lucy Ferrante as Nelle and Diane Kelber as Sook. Also worthy of special mention is Sheldon in his cameo role as Queenie. Sheldon’s road to theatrical fame was a very rough road indeed. The one and a half year old Chiweenie is a rescue dog having been saved underweight and under loved from a local shelter.
As the story unfolds the ‘Alabama Fruitcake’ emerges as one of the connecting themes. But what really emerges in its own sometimes awkward but undeniable way is the power of true love within a family and even community environment. Each song, each period of dialogue reveals yet another element of that sometimes stressful but nevertheless powerful theme of familial love centered on the celebration of Christmas. But it also shows the deep struggle that impacted many Americans, and for that matter much of the world, during the Great Depression. That reality distinguishes ‘A Christmas Memory’ from the more traditional Christmas oriented theatrical presentations such as ‘A Christmas Carol’ by way of example.
‘A Christmas Memory’ is an excellent way to enhance your own Christmas/Holiday season this year, but I confess it has one tiny flaw in my mind and that is it does seem just a bit too long. Maybe cut one song from each act, I don’t know, but a little less could yield a lot more. After all there really is such a thing as too much of a good thing. That said even as is ‘A Christmas Memory’ is a great way to welcome in your Christmas/Holiday season for 2015 and you can do that at the Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 West Sierra Madre Boulevard, Sierra Madre, California 91024 now through December 27th 2015. For exact show dates and times and to make reservations you may call 626-355-4318 or for online ticketing you may visit www.sieraamadreplayhouse.org.