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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

This year’s cavalcade of Christmas shows continues for Mrs. K and I, this time on a community theatre stage, with Dylan Thomas’ charming remembrance – A Child’s Christmas in Wales. In what will sadly be CTC’s final show at the Studio 15, this sentimental picture of another era’s celebration is filled with songs and stories and mischief. Director John C. Clair works with a large cast of 24 performers, nearly half of them children and young adults, to bring Thomas’ wonderful use of language to the fore.

Rick Sharp plays the narrator, the mature Dylan, as he looks back to days long ago when, as a boy, he spent Christmas Day with aunts, uncles, cousins, townspeople and his parents. Sharp’s delivery of Thomas’ poetical prose is sensitive and on the mark, projecting a rich nostalgia. Playing the younger Thomas, Dalyn Stewart repeats his role from 2 years ago. Young Mr. Stewart has an easy feel for stage work and is very appealing as he imparts a lively imagination and a thrill for the holiday.

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Dalyn Stewart plays young Dylan Thomas, while Rick Sharp portrays Dylan Thomas the elder. (This picture is from the 2014 presentation of the show.)

The various other roles are played out with energetic enthusiasm by a talented corps of actors and actresses. Highlights for me were Anthony Johnson, effusive as Dylan’s father -D.J.; Smith David, engaging as Dylan’s best friend Tom; Valery DeLong, alternately harried and in charge as the Thomas mother; LeRoy Delph as a very lively Uncle Gwyn – full of song, dance, and stories; Nan Macy as larger than life Aunt Nellie; Thom Johnson, who gives his all in multiple comic roles; and Rachelle Woolston, whose amazing voice is a show-stopper, as her Aunt Eleri sings the traditional Welsh song Calon Lân with a beautiful interpretation.

The musical accompaniment by Musical Director Carol Keddington on clavinova and percussionist Dick Leap adds to the texture of the show and the six members of The Swansea Singers regale us with ageless carols before each act.

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Bottom line: This is unusual Christmas fare. Tunefully adapted for the stage by Jeremy Brooks and Adrian Mitchell – it takes a little while to settle into the Thomas prose, but we are thus led into a holiday from another time. The simplicity and joy conveyed here cannot help but put one into a fine holiday spirit.

A Child’s Christmas in Wales runs at Carmel’s Studio 15 through December 17th, with Thursday through Saturday evening shows at 7 pm and one Sunday show on December 11th at 2:30 pm. For ticket reservations and information go online to http://www.carmeltheatrecompany.com or call the reservation line at 317.688.8876.

A short note of remembrance: It truly is sad to me that the central Indiana theatre community will be losing Carmel’s Studio 15. (It is being razed to become valuable Arts District parking spaces.) The squat building has been utilized as a unique venue for both actors and audience members since I directed the first show there in 2002. CCP’s production of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams starred Jean Adams and Joshua French and was played in 3/4 round – before the 2 inch high stage was built at the north end of the building for the next show. A lot of improvements were made over the years – many by Larry, Susan and Ron Creviston, many by John and June Clair – but the old city office building always provided a singularly intimate theatre experience. As my friend Larry Adams once wrote here, “As an actor, I’ve always loved that feeling of being in the audience’s face- practically in their collective lap – connecting with them, drawing them into the experience. Now, as an audience member, I can tell you that feeling is just as much fun, and something you simply won’t experience at a bigger theater.”

Here’s hoping that CTC finds a suitable replacement as they move away and into the future!

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