‘Christmas Box’ doesn’t contain much magic

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    By WILLIAM BENAC

    An amazingly small amount of the magic of Richard Paul Evans’ best-selling novel “The Christmas Box” is carried into the musical adaptation showing at BYU’s Pardoe Theatre until Dec. 6.

    The adaptation, by Eric Samuelsen and Murray Boren, is an unartistic and sluggish bore suffering from poor presentation, messages so blatant as to be painful and poor scene selection devoid of intrigue.

    The artful, green scrim the audience sees hanging before the stage suggests creativity, misleading viewers to anticipate beautiful sets. As the play begins, the angel dancing ballet on the split-level stage misleads the viewer into expecting equally beautiful acting and stage direction.

    Quickly disabused of notions of beauty, the audience sees the lower stage fill with lackluster costumes on singing actors who swarm around tables that look like they were swiped from a high school science lab.

    The rotating stage enjoys nothing more than sparse, uninspiring furniture, behind which is a black abyss, swallowing the set.

    Samuelsen writes in the program notes he felt he should focus on the need for balance in life, so he presents Richard as a workaholic who cannot seem to understand the needs of his family.

    But he drives the point in so hard, with countless repetitions of overwork, that one cringes every time it looks like Richard will again turn for his shop. This blatancy makes annoying a point that might otherwise be thought-provoking.

    “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead,” a play by Tom Stoppard, shows the life of two minor characters from “Hamlet” when they are not on stage. It shows the emptiness of their off-stage existence, portraying only details Shakespeare chose to omit.

    The musical “A Christmas Box” seems to assume no Stoppard will come along to write the play of the character’s off-stage emptiness, so it hides the useful elements of the story among empty ones. A viewer could nod off for five minutes and not even realize it.

    Frequent songs in the production, though sung well, do not advance the plot. Adults will feel they are children again watching Julie Andrews musicals and wishing those blasted songs would just get out of the story’s way.

    The characters are hardly endearing to the audience. When MaryAnne announces she has a brain tumor, one feels badly only at not being able to care.

    Those who want to brave this production can call the HFAC ticket office at 378-4322 for information.

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