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Holiday Tale Reaches for a Special Audience

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring. . . .

Except a trio of disgruntled elves tired of their Christmas toil and wondering what it’s all about anyway.

In a short musical based on Clement C. Moore’s poem, which opened Saturday at Barnsdall Park’s Gallery Theatre, the elves get the chance to find out what all their hard work is for. Thanks to a helpful Christmas fairy, they experience first-hand the joy of gift-giving, visions of sugarplums and Santa’s arrival by chimney.

This first effort by the new Los Angeles Children’s Theatre is a gentle, jolly show for very young children, performed and created by acting and technical professionals, and similar in content to the work of other Los Angeles-based children’s theater groups.

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A clue that the company’s target audience is wider than most was indicated by the presence of hearing-impaired Oscar-winner Marlee Matlin at the opening performance.

“ ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” offers two fully professional casts in two versions of the show: Deaf and hearing-impaired actors perform a sign-language version with voice interpretation. Hearing actors do a spoken and sung version for hearing audiences.

Seeing bright-eyed children sign excitedly to parents as the comical elves speak their language eloquently underscores how special the experience is.

The Los Angeles Children’s Theatre’s stated goal is to provide quality theater for mainstream audiences and for the economically or physically disadvantaged.

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It has engendered a good deal of support to do so: Its advisory board is made up of Hollywood celebrities; its initial performances are sponsored by the casts of television’s “Amen” and “The Wonder Years” and by Tripod, a nonprofit organization for families with hearing-impaired children.

The company plans three productions in 1989 at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre in Santa Monica.

There’s room in the Southland for quality children’s theater. This new entry has potential; it has already proved it has heart. What else it is made of remains to be seen.


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