A part of every critic’s job is sitting through the bad as well as the good. It is simply a hazard of the profession. However, enduring “Christmastime Is Here” as staged by Miss Othmar’s class at St. Paul Elementary School is a sacrifice not to be asked of anyone. A class of fourth-graders celebrating Christmas should be a joyous occasion, but last night’s performance is evidence that the legitimate stage is no place for childish revelry.
The problems began with the play’s director, Charlie Brown. Master Brown brought no coherence to the proceedings. A ham-handed retelling of the Nativity story (which inexplicably included a Christmas Queen) was followed by free form jazz music and strange dancing that would be more at home in a production of “Hair” than in a solemn holiday story. Two small twin girls danced in frightening unison like they were trying to remove water from their ears, and one young man bobbed his head in such a manner as to suggest that he had broken his neck! The strange goings on continued as a beagle portrayed all of the animals in the Nativity story. Dada-esque theater has its place, but in Master Brown’s hands it simply seemed like cheap shock tactics. This reviewer, for one, was previously unaware that a penguin was present at the birth of Christ.
Set design was practically nonexistent save for a tiny, barren Christmas tree that appeared unlikely to prolong its painful life enough to even see Christmas Day. The pathetic little tree was an apt symbol of Brown’s amateurish production and its odd juxtaposition of the sacred with the profane. It's quite apparent that Charlie Brown was hired to direct the play on the recommendation of his psychiatrist.
The evening finally came to a close with an overbearing recitation of a passage from the Gospel of St. Luke by Linus Van Pelt. After hearing Master Van Pelt describe the Nativity with his particular brand of pretentious faux humility, I’m sure he has a bright future as an oncologist, a philosophy professor or Alex Trebek’s replacement on Jeopardy!
All are encouraged to skip this holiday disaster. If you are so unfortunate as to receive tickets to this production for a Christmas present, you can be sure that you were deemed “naughty” this year.