Christmas magic infuses the Long Beach Shakespeare Company’s The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, at the Richard Goad Theatre through Dec. 11. In a beautiful winter wonderland of trees and snow, young Claus and various forest fairies are brought to life making toys, battling sinister Awgwas in epic manner (see below) and bringing joy to every child, rich or poor. If you didn’t believe in Santa before, you will want to once you see this thoroughly enchanting production.
Based on the richly imaginative book by L. Frank Baum, brilliantly adapted for the LB Shakespeare Company stage by Jo McLachlan and expertly directed by Helen Borgers, the play tells the story of a baby found by immortal forest dwellers who grows up with a desire to leave the world a better place than he found it. His idealism is aided by his supernatural adopted forest family, but also challenged by those evil Awgwas, who like it when children do things like stomp on bugs.
The Awgwas’ kidnapping of Claus and the grand battle that ensues between them and the Immortals is compellingly staged, with inventive video, sound effects and fight choreography, tempering the candy-cane sweetness of the story with a potent dash of Lord of the Rings.
All the actors are fully engaged throughout, each performing their multiple roles with precision and feeling. Leonardo Lerma’s glee in playing each of his parts is especially infectious, whether it’s the wickedly cruel King Awgwa, pompously rich Lord Lerd or sweetly sentimental forest dweller Knook. Tate Howell as curly-headed Claus is enthusiastic and expressive as the idealistic young man who morphs into the famous toy-giver.
Ashley Wilkerson graces the stage with her effortless ballet dancing and elegance, whether as queen or deer, and Andy Kallok brings regal presence to Master Woodsman Ak. Amy Paloma Welch embodies equally well her roles as a benevolent forest Ryl, a mother and Glossie the deer (performing a humorously imbalanced dance duet with Flossie). Rounding out the cast, local students Kate Dougherty and Giancarlo Roldan as fairies and children perform perfectly professionally, Dougherty in particular managing her myriad lines with ease.
Seamlessly composed music (Edmund Velasco) and well-orchestrated choreography (Ramzi Jneid) enrich the fabled quality of the story, as do the lyrical songs, most written by Jo McLachlan, as well as gorgeous costuming designed by producer Dana Leach and a charmed set (Tim Leach). A changing video-projected backdrop is especially artful, displaying scenes of snowy forests, giant snowflakes, a time tunnel through which Claus and Ak travel the world, and abstract images that accompany the clashing of the great battle. The on-stage set sparkles delightfully, and props such as pine trees and stools are manipulated well by the actors as scenes shift from forest to town to Claus’s house. And there’s real snow!
Treat yourself and any children around you this weekend to this heartfelt holiday performance and be transported to a magical realm where you will discover more about Santa Claus than you could ever have imagined. ✦
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus continues at the Richard Goad Theatre, 4250 Atlantic Ave., through Dec. 11, with shows Friday and Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 2pm. Tickets are $12.50 to $22.50. For reservations and information, call (562) 997-1494 or visit LBShakespeare.org.