A Child’s Christmas in Wales, now at the Irish Repertory Theatre, takes Dylan Thomas’ classic short story about his family’s holiday celebrations and adds a variety of classic Christmas songs, as well as originals by adapter/director Charlotte Moore, resulting in 70 festive minutes of entertainment.
The talented five-member ensemble (which includes Broadway star Howard McGillin) begins singing the Welsh version of “Deck the Halls” from outside of the theater, and like a distant memory being recalled, it slowly comes into focus as they edge closer, finally entering the theater and making their way to the small stage aglow with decorated trees and a fireplace mantle.
After another round of the song (this time in English), the ensemble, launches into the first original of the night, Moore’s “Take My Hand, Tomorrow’s Christmas.” It’s a simple and sentimental ditty, but tuneful enough to quicken the heartbeat in anticipation of what’s to come.
“I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six,” are Thomas’ (Ashley Robinson) first words to the audience. Robinson’s low-key delivery contrasts nicely with the classic earnestness of the other cast members as they embody Thomas’ parents, relatives, friends, and the other people in his small Welsh town with an effortless charm.
Danielle Erin Rhodes has some of the livelier characters, including one of Thomas’ drunk aunts, but the rest of the cast shines as well. They sing as if they’re welcoming you into their living room, and you can’t help but smile. Some of the shows best moments come in song such as the traditional round robin “A-Soaling,” which highlights the contrasting vocal ranges of McGillin, Rhodes, Robinson, Edwin Cahill, and Beverly Ward. In addition, Musical Director John Bell accompanies on piano with a light touch that never overwhelms.
More than any one moment, though, A Child’s Christmas is a wash of emotion, transporting us to the white dusted mountains of the famously tragic poet’s youth when he was just a boy who built snow castles.