Wake Up, Jay! It’s Christmas!
Wake Up, Jay! It’s Christmas! is a children’s show—and one that’s designed to be enjoyed by the very young (as in toddlers and preschoolers, and probably not a whole lot older than first-graders).
The story involves two characters done up in furry animal outfits—Jay, a red-point Siamese cat, who is female and pretentious and thinks (make that “knows”) she owns the house where she lives; and Charley, the household’s new puppy, who is masculine, over-eager, a little goofy and prone to snoring when he takes a nap.
It’s a short show, running between 45 minutes and an hour, depending on the number of kids in the house, and the amount of audience participation that the young ’uns prefer. (It’s about the same length as the typical Fantasy Theatre presentation. You can’t go much longer with the preschool set—they get excited, and then they need to pee!)
There are several sketches in which Jay and Charlie antagonize each other, several songs that everyone is invited to sing (“Jingle Bells,” “Must Be Santa,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”); a “surprise” visit by a fat old guy with white whiskers and a red outfit (who really does come sliding down the chimney); and lastly an opportunity for the small fry to get up on the stage, meet the cast, and even sit in Santa’s lap. (Not all youngsters are brave enough to do this.) The show has a sort of a friendly, casual, improvised feel—the script by the Thistle Dew’s Thomas Kelly being more of a framework for the performers to work within, as opposed to a detailed set of plot instructions.
Kevin Beard, as the puppy dog, gets in some good jokes, one or two of which are intended more for the parents and grandparents in the audience. He also looks good on a pogo stick. Desirae Hunter plays the kitty cat, looking for a way to get rid of the pesky little puppy, but not in a particularly menacing way.
Director Jill McMahon moves her two main characters all over the set (built by Kelly), which includes a marvelous oversized, overstuffed chair. The animal costumes, by Angela Kight, are attractive—a sort of throwback to the days before animation when this sort of entertainment was found on children’s television programs, back in the days of black and white.
Does the show have “kid appeal”? A 3-year-old, sitting in front of me, sang along heartily and giggled at the animals’ antics. A 6-year-old, seated nearby, also enjoyed the show. My own son, a sophisticated sixth-grader, broke into a smile periodically, but didn’t want to go up on the stage. Another girl, who looked to be 11 or 12, was beckoned out under the lights, where she donned a set of furry “antlers” and sang a number with the kitty cat.