Victoria Mallory, Martin Vidnovic, Simon Jones, Kerry Conte, musical director John Bell, and Ashley Robinson
in A Child's Christmas in Wales
(© Carol Rosegg)
Victoria Mallory, Martin Vidnovic, Simon Jones, Kerry Conte,
musical director John Bell, and Ashley Robinson
in A Child's Christmas in Wales
(© Carol Rosegg)
A Child's Christmas in Wales, now being presented at the Irish Repertory Theatre, is a sweetly festive holiday show, but one that would greatly benefit from a stronger visual production than Charlotte Moore's simple staging.

Against a pretty backdrop of brightly lit Christmas trees and wreaths, five very talented actors and singers -- Kerry Conte, Simon Jones, Victoria Mallory, Martin Vidnovic and Ashley Robinson -- sing a cornucopia of Christmas tunes, both traditional and contemporary, as they narrate writer Dylan Thomas' tale of his childhood Christmas.

The actors sit, stand, and circle their respective five chairs lined up across the stage, frozen smiles adorning their faces as they react to one another's never-ending lines. Too often, they are asked to stare off into the distance, "reminiscing" about childhood, as they are all supposed to be recalling childhood from the perspective of Thomas. As a result, many audiences will either find themselves nodding off to the beautiful, yet lengthy lullaby-like words of Thomas, or they'll be checking their watches.

David Toser's costumes are fitting for the place and time, as all of the actors are decked out for a fancy Christmas party. Mary Jo Dondlinger's lights are compelling, but rarely vary throughout the prolonged show. The theater is warm amidst the standard Christmas fare with flickering candlelit lanterns, and in one slightly climactic moment of the piece, green stars adorn the cozy walls.

While the show is full of holiday favorites -- including sing-along versions of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and "White Christmas -- a few of the lesser-known songs prove humorous and entertaining, such as C. Frank Horn's "Miss Fogarty's Christmas Cake" and the traditional "Dylan Thomas is a Fool."

In the end, though, these ditties, along with the rest of the songs perrformed here, would best be left to a recording of this tale to be enjoyed in pajamas by a toasty fireplace.