Thursday, December 11, 2008

"A Christmas Carol" at the KC Rep

To say that we started out having a good night would be quite an extension of the truth. Cole and I are used to the weather being icy and cold around our respective birthdays, and we comfort ourselves with the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the Season. When everyone else in town complains about how cold it is, the snow, the crowds, we are caught up by the festive goings-on and pretend every one's celebrating on our behalf. This was our expectation of our traditional night out to A Christmas Carol at the KC Rep.

No one could know what was about to unfold. Cole's stomach was troubling him, and I was developing a head-cold. The 25 minute ride to the Rep consisted of a conversation with Cole about his hurting belly and his desire to forgo the play. Doug was simply trying to keep it together in hopes I wouldn't suggest we throw in the towel and turn around for home. Somehow we made it to the Rep. Sitting at Rockhill & Volker, looking up the hill towards our destination, I resolved to be strong and make it through the evening. No throw-in-the-towel, push-over Mom here! We'd spent enough money to push me past my headache and Cole's persistent gassing of the car. Surely some beverages and cookies would pave the way to a nice time.

With a sigh of relief, I saw the approaching parking garage. Busy with putting on hats and gloves, we forgot how awful we were feeling and started the quick walk up the hill to the theater. I can't imagine what poor Doug was thinking with the two of us miscreants. As other patrons hurried through the cold with us, the excitement of the evening finally surfaced. I grasped Doug's arm to keep from slipping on the icy sidewalk. Cole began chattering about all of the things he enjoyed from last year's show, and as we made our way into the building and towards Will Call, he commented on the changes to the theater lobby. He really doesn't miss a thing.

Festively decorated, the theater lobby was fairly empty with only a few folks milling around anxiously awaiting seating to begin but trying to look casual as more and more folks arrived. Cole and I hung back as Doug attempted to get our tickets from the very cute, older gentleman at the Will Call table. Cute, perhaps but with all of his marbles? I think not. Doug patiently repeated my name at least seven times to the gentleman who obligingly repeated it back to him but who continued to skip over our tickets in the box in front of him. Jacquelyn, it would seem, blends right in with all of the Kims, Beths, Sues, etc. I never have this problem. In our empathetic discomfort, Cole and I slowly backed away and smooshed as closely together as we could, trying to be invisible until Doug managed the tickets. I wasn't so sure the night was going to shape up after all.

On time, coats checked, and not in a rush for once, we stopped by the snack bar for some pre-show Holiday goodness. The attendant placed our champagne, ginger bread cookies, and a soda on the bar directly at Cole's eye-level. Cole and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows, eagerly awaiting our treats when we heard the dream-smashing words "cash only". Oh no! Panic doesn't set in...panic arises and so it did - IMMEDIATELY.

After all of the challenges in just getting our family to the Rep and with tickets, this was NOT what we needed. Being a genius in crisis situations (yes, I said "crisis"!), I asked the nice woman if we could simply move around to the side of the bar and wait while Doug ran to the Student Union to the closest ATM. I could see by her doubtful face that she was torn, but the occasion of the evening must have struck her. She conceded, and the three of us self-consciously stepped aside with our yet-to-be-purchased items. Shoulders sunk and dejected, Cole and I were miserable when Doug suddenly and quite triumphantly pulled a $20 bill out of his wallet. WHAT?! Another dirty trick of Doug's non-existent memory? Good grief! Quickly surveying the now-crowding room and in the 87th attempt to salvage the evening, I discovered a lone empty table in the corner behind the Christmas Tree - perfect for Cole and his social discomfort and our ever-increasing dour moods! I commanded Doug to pay for our stolen goods, and Cole and I walk-ran for our goal. Made it! Okay...NOW, we were sure to relax and have some fun! right?

Safely hidden behind the Christmas tree, we could listen to the carolers who'd taken their places in front of the tree during our F&B debacle...well, in all fairness..during our ALMOST-debacle. I hastily gulped my champagne and waited for the warm little bubbles to work their way to my limbs...ahhhh, okay. Here we go; good times. The three of us smiled at each other with the beautifully lit Christmas tree and the carolers in the background; it seemed the night had taken a turn. That was...until Doug got the camera out and decided we needed some pix by the tree. Now Cole, not being one for photo ops, was very annoyed, and I have to admit I fought aggravation as Doug's need to document the evening took precedence over our recently found solace. I don't blame him. We rarely take family photos anymore, so his intentions were good...timing...not so fantastic.

Pictures taken, the three of us finally enjoyed our goodies and geared up for the play. We had a rather nice, uneventful moment or two while we talked and snacked. The lobby was filling up, and the chime indicated the theater doors were opening. As we walked away from our table, Doug knocked the remaining 1/4 of his cup of champagne on the floor (I'm not making this stuff up!), and my laughter was on the verge of hysteria as Cole looked on in disbelief. Fairly non-plussed, Doug cleaned up our mess, and we FINALLY made our way to our seats. The darkening of the lights couldn't come quickly enough!

Contrary to the theme of the evening, our seats were wonderful - stage left, first row of the raised terrace seating on the inner aisle. If anyone walked in front of us, we could see directly over their heads, and we had plenty of foot room. Okay, okay. The three of us got comfortable in our seats. I can't speak for the guys, but I wasn't quite at ease. Did some deep breathing and lots of smiling at Cole. Smiled at the gentleman next to me, another cute older gentleman. He turned out to be a wonderful aisle-mate and did not bump me or breathe on me or lean or anything of the sort. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Similarly overheating in his navy jacket, tan trousers, and Christmas-light-adorned tie, he dutifully acquiesced with a smile each time I turned his way. So, I was breathing and feeling fortunate for our good luck with seating. Lights dimmed and away we went.

With its 28 year history at the Rep, A Christmas Carol is deeply tied into the magical and unique Kansas City Holiday experience and a special part of my own family's Holiday traditions. Doug and I are so excited to make it a part of ours, and as the lights dimmed, it seemed perhaps our 2nd year would prove as wondrous as years passed. Charles Dickens' character began his narration of Ebenezer's unhappy and disdainful outlook on life and most particularly, Christmas. Other than the occasional minor distraction from a bead of sweat making its way down my back, I was swept away with the production. Until the intermission, I was alone in my thoughts and impressions of the play. Cole and Doug could have been eating their gloves, and I would have been none the wiser.

As I complained about how hot I was, my aisle-mate commented in agreement, "I don't know what they're heating this place with, but it's working." Cole suggested we get some air before my hair began to curl, and I couldn't have agreed more. Doug picked up some Annedore's chocolate covered almonds on the way out, and we headed for the doors. After a few minutes of fresh, Wintry air, I did feel better, and Cole seemed refreshed despite his persistent requests to leave the premises immediately. The chocolates were amazing, and I think had we skipped them Cole would have won his argument to leave. Heading back into the 2nd half, I was a bit skeptical about the money we'd spent on the play. Doug's usual good-nature was waning, and Cole and I couldn't seem to shake the beggar off our backs, to use a reference from the play.

The air in the theater was cooler. Aisle-mate and I sighed in unison and smiled at each other in relief. Evidently, we weren't the only sweating patrons, and the rest of the evening was much more comfortable. Also, for those of you who have seen A Christmas Carol, you'll remember the 2nd half of the play is much more exciting and emotionally engaging. The cast was remarkable, and as the story built and the ghosts revealed themselves amidst all of the special effects, Cole and Doug and I began to exchange excited glances and hushed comments regarding how cool everything was. They got us! ....whew...finally.

After everything the three of us had gone through to finally reach this point, I was just grateful for the smiles and laughter, and then something unexpected and magical happened.

The Ghost of Christmas Present, played by Jim Gall, is presented as a giant of a man, bearded and draped in a heavy green velvet robe, crowned with candles atop a wreath. His deep voice boomed through the theater as he remanded Scrooge, and as in previous productions, he was on stilts - probably 12 feet tall. During the scene, all of the cast joins in for a Christmas song and parades through the theater aisles, carrying light posts, candles, presents, and more - each character making random comments to the audience. This is a very exciting part of the play no matter your seats in the theater, but remember...we had wonderful seats!

Cole, Doug, and I were captivated with the actors as they made their way through the crowd. We were just above their heads on our little terrace balcony and could see what was going on very clearly. However, before we knew it, our view was blocked by the immense Ghost of Christmas Present who was magically standing directly in front of Cole; his gaze locked onto Cole's. Cole's eyes were saucer-round and huge, and he sank into his chair. The spotlight shined on the Ghost brightly, and his voice boomed at Cole, "WHAT IS THIS? A CHILD WITHOUT A SMILE? THIS CANNOT BE!," and he threw a gigantic handful of sequins up into the air very dramatically. The sequins sparkled brightly in the spotlight and fell all over us. We couldn't think of all the eyes on us at that moment, because the Ghost was all-consuming. Cole's eyes widen. He was frozen in his seat. I can't even imagine how fantastical a moment that must have been for him, and it wasn't over. Seeing Cole's still-frowning mouth, the Ghost boomed again, "WHAT IS THIS? THE CHILD STILL SMILES NOT?! THIS CANNOT BE!", and yet again, he threw a handful of sequins into the air and laughed with all of his strength. Smiles crept across our faces, and all three of us burst out laughing!

It was an exhilarating moment for all of us. Of course, our hearts raced throughout the duration of the play, and as soon as the lights came on, we began chattering about what had happened. The evening up until the point of the Ghost faded into the background. We talked and laughed the entire way to the car and quietly felt special and looked fondly at our fellow patrons walking with us. When I pulled my door shut, I breathed a sigh of relief and wondered at the true magic of the Christmas Season and was thankful for the glorious play we're all lucky to see each year.

The Plaza lights looked more brilliant than ever on our drive home, and we're still smiling at our experience today.

Thank you A Christmas Carol! Thank you Kansas City! and...

"God bless us, every one!"

(Photo of Jim Gall as Ghost of Christmas Present from

1 comment:

  1. almost brought a tear...Big tall Gall is a splendid fellow. Always has been, always will be.




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