Located in South Chesterfield, Virginia, some twenty miles from Richmond, Swift Creek Mill Theatre is housed in a former grist mill dating back to 1663. Normally a venue for dinner and a show, we reviewed their highly enjoyable “1940s Radio Christmas Carol” during the holiday season of 2018. Due to the Coronavirus, Swift Creek Mill is offering a new performance experience. A “Young People’s Playhouse,” is streaming performances of original youth plays created for educators and families. We were pleased to see “A Drifty Holiday” in this online format and can recommend it as family fare for Christmas, especially for those with smaller children. “A Drifty Holiday” features book, music, and lyrics by Paul Deiss.
The production creates a holiday ambience well…
The production creates a holiday ambience well, with archetypical Christmas tree and wreaths, stockings by the chimney, and a red and gold Father Christmas chair. In this energetic and colorful musical production, the elf Tipeta and Mrs. Claus (wife of Santa) sing “Naughty, naughty Reindeer.” Santa’s reindeer have escaped and are flying overhead in the skies above the North Pole. If the reindeer do not land soon, Santa will not be able to bring toys to all the girls and boys of the world. The North Pole police force has proven unsuccessful at recalling the reindeer from their rebellion. Worse, Prancer is in the greenhouse eating the flowers. “If Rudolph were here, he’d be disappointed to see you all playing those reindeer games” one character says, alluding to the Gene Autry song “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.” Can Drifty the Snowman help resolve this untenable situation? Will Cowboy Jim be able to round them up with his lasso?
Ali Thibodeau makes for a charming Pepita the Elf, and Jacqueline O’Connor comes in for nice vocal work as Mrs. Claus. Joy Williams is incandescent as Drifty the Snowman. Ian Page is a wonderful Cowboy Jim, channeling a movie cowboy persona and following in the tradition of Autry and Roy Rogers as a singing cowboy. Needless to say, Santa Claus makes his appearance, and he is billed in the production as played by himself. The show features an accompanying video which teaches children some of the dances in the show, including do-si-do square dancing techniques, the Virginia Reel, and traditional Renaissance dances such as the allemande. The sound mix is good, with a blend of new and traditional holiday songs. This is complemented by the excellent Christmas-themed set and costumes. The camera work is also appropriate, showing the stage and characters from a variety of angles. The director’s duties are executed well by Tom Width, who creates a believable Christmas fantasy.
Though this is a virtual production, the character of Drifty ends the video in an interactive fashion, encouraging children to memorize a poem to recite to her next year. She also encourages the small set to look at and treasure the bright moments, as this holiday comes at a difficult time during the pandemic. Promotional materials also state that children will be able to download games, puzzles, and an earth science experiment.
Running Time: The production runs 52 minutes.
Tickets for “A Drifty Holiday” can be ordered here.