The Gift of the Magi
The Foothill Theatre Company has all the ingredients for a sweet holiday treat. First, the theater is blessed to be in the middle of the picture-perfect Christmas card town of Nevada City. The streets are lined with beautiful turn-of-the-century buildings, garlanded street lights, costumed carolers and ongoing Victorian Christmas festivities.
Add to this the classic O. Henry Christmas short story The Gift of the Magi, which explores selfless love through the thoughtful gift exchange between two poor newlyweds. Lacking money, wife Della (Lauren Adams) cuts her beautiful hair to buy a watch fob for husband, Jim (Michael Batusic), who sells his watch to buy hair combs for his wife.
Stir in the delightful set created by the gifted design team of Pamela Hodges and Les Solomon that illustrates tired tenement houses, the newlywed’s sad flat, and a clever parlor cutaway for the piano accompanist. Add a heaping cup of endearing acting and singing skills by Adams and Batusic, and season with the musical talents of pianist Beverly Marks and the sharp eye of director Karen Casl.
The result is a festive holiday dish that’s tasty and timely, but unfortunately suffers from an overdose of sugar. This version, adapted into a musical by Peter Ekstrom, turns O. Henry’s sentimental tale into a sappy musical with very little dialogue and syrupy songs, making the story more saccharine than quietly sweet and thoughtful.
It’s also a modest production, compared to the memorable holiday fare of Foothill Theatre’s past, which included such classics as A Christmas Story, A Child’s Christmas in Wales and Little Women. Fortunately, the holiday season is the one time a too-sweet musical can still be a Christmas treat for the whole family.