Although it was a balmy 50-degree day in February outside, inside New York's New Dramatists it was Christmas Eve on a tiny freezing island off the coast of Alaska.
King Island Christmas received its second New York concert reading yesterday. With music by Disney conductor/vocal arranger David Friedman and a libretto by New Dramatists member Deborah Baley Brevoort, the Christmas oratorio won the 1997 Fredrick Loewe Award in Music Theatre, a grant given by New Dramatists to one of its members.
Based on the 1985 children's book of the same name by Jean Rogers, the oratorio tells the story of King Island, an isolated Alaskan community where "everything comes by boat/including Christmas." The cast of 25 entered as Christmas carolers in red, green, and black, who are there to present the King Island tale. The narrator, sung by The King and I's Paolo Montalban, introduced the town in the song "There is an Island" and often reappeared to remind the audience of the locale and its people ("On King Island"). The town waits for the arrival of the North Star, a ship that brings everything they need for the winter, including their priest, Father Caroll (Robert DuSold, Jekyll and Hyde, Les Miserables).
But Alvin Crawford, as Ooloranna, warns that "The Signs of Nature" say the town will not be able to intercept the boat in their oomiak, a walrus skin boat. They must walk with the oomiak over the mountain to the other side of the island where the sea is calmer or they will not see their priest or their supplies until spring.
In the end, they manage to get the priest ashore and the town comes together for a Mass ("The Miracle of Light") and a Christmas feast. The chorus recessional reminded again that the story was a tale told by carolers ("And That is Our Story"). Liz Callaway (Cats, Baby) sang the part of Little Eir's Mother whose solo piece was "The Gift of Trouble", a song affirming the value of difficult times. DuSold, as the priest, celebrated the town's heart in "It's Love". In solo children parts, Christopher Cordell played Little Eir and Bonnie Gleicher sang the voice of the oomiak in "The Song of the Oomiak".
Crawford reprised his role as Ooloranna from the original production of King Island Christmas, which premiered at the Perseverance Theatre in Juneau, AK, in December of 1997.
King Island Christmas' first New York concert reading was Feb. 9 at the Lamb's Theatre. These readings were directed by Elizabeth Margrid and stage manged by Angie Berle. David Friedman not only musical directed, but accompanied the chorus on the piano.
-- ByChristine Ehren