The elves at Orlando Repertory Theatre have been working overtime on staging and lighting, and the results put a dollop of holiday magic into "A Nutty Nutcracker Christmas," directed by Rob Anderson.
The elves in question are lighting designer George Jackson, scenic designer Cindy White and sound designer John Valines who together create a fantasy land for the toys and fairies of Christmas Wood to romp in.
The show, which clocks in at 65 minutes for young attention spans, tells the story of Fritz (Sage Starkey), a naughty boy who teases his sister and thinks her favorite hobby — ballet — is boring.
But it isn't too long before he's having a Christmas Eve adventure involving a Mouse King (Timothy Pappas) and a spirited Nutcracker, nicknamed Nutty (Taylor Anderson).
Frankly, the songs by Ralph Covert aren't the strongest, hampered by sloppy lyrics — "hearts" doesn't rhyme with "hurts" — but kids will be too busy watching the energetic cast to notice.
Jasmine Forsberg and Nick Mazzini exude sugar-plum fun as two fairies and Pappas' Mouse King is appropriately more hammy than scary for the little ones, but this is Starkey's show all the way.
As Fritz, Starkey plays petulant teen with the right combination of bravado and whining. Buried in his beloved Mouse Hunter 3000 video game, he twitches with excitement as he defeats the virtual villains.
But Starkey makes Fritz more than a bully with some funny quirks: nervous laughs, fiddling with his costume. Yes, costume. Fritz dresses as a character from the game, and Marcy Singhaus's costume adds another layer of endearment to Fritz.
Starkey is only upstaged by those wonderful effects. A magical tree transforms lifesize toys into playthings, lights dazzle and the adults in the audience, like me, might be oohing along with their wide-eyed children.
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•What: 'A Nutty Nutcracker Christmas'
•Length: 65 minutes, no intermission
•Where: Orlando Repertory Theatre, 1001 E. Princeton St., Orlando
•When: Noon and 4 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 5:30 p.m. Sundays, through Dec. 18
•Tickets: $17; $15 students and seniors; $11 ages 17 and younger
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