Fremont Street Theater stages holiday original
Extra, extra! Read all about it. Mrs. Claus saves Christmas Eve! That's the premise behind an original holiday musical opening Dec. 7 at the Elgin Arts Showcase.
The children's show is the latest musical written by Mundelein playwright Sue Mrotek. She wrote the play, as well as its music and lyrics, which then were arranged by A.J. Braman.
Here's the premise: Mrs. Claus is forced to step up when Santa, his reindeer and all the caribou who live in the North Pole have come down with a nasty case of the candy cane flu. They are simply too sick to pull Santa's sleigh full of toys.
Knowing that girls and boys are counting on waking up to Christmas presents, Mrs. Claus and her elves work quickly to find the right stand-ins to get the job done. Thus ensues a quest to save Christmas Eve, during which the audience meets a cast of wacky animals.
Look for colorful costumes, whimsical songs and creative movement throughout the show, and a story line that hopes to engage its audiences. Even better, tickets are only $6.
The all adult cast features Mrotek herself as Holly, the elf; Mary Oskroba of Lombard as Ivy the elf; Eileen Mitchell of Palatine as Mrs. Claus; Susan Mulert of Palatine as Sundra Tundra the moose; T.R. Frye of Naperville as Donder Tundra the moose; Julie Price of Palatine as Tiny the polar bear; Jennifer McHugh of Deer Park as Ruby the snowshoe rabbit; Madeline Franklin of Palatine as Chenille the penguin; while Dan Arthur of Streamwood plays Maxwell the musk ox and Rick Hollander of Palatine is Santa.
Officials with Palatine-based Fremont Street Theater commissioned Mrotek to create the holiday show. This is the third children's musical she has written, although she also has written more than a dozen skits and plays. In this case, all she had to go on was a reindeer, as suggested by production members.
"That was it," Mrotek says. "I had to come up with the rest of the story and it just started developing -- with a moose, polar bear, snowshoe hare, penguin and musk ox. Then I developed the lyrics as I introduced each animal."
Mrotek likes to include animal characters in her shows, and they all have a role in conveying the show's message. This one is no different.
"Each animal shows up with some kind of issue that, in most cases, wouldn't make them hired for sleigh pulling," Mrotek says. "But both Santa and Mrs. Claus have faith in them, and together they help each other overcome any frailties."
Traditionally, the theater group produces huge Broadway in Palatine musicals each summer, for which they've won some regional awards from BroadwayWorld Chicago.
However, increasingly they've searched for ways to make theater more accessible to children. Consequently, this show marks the debut of their educational outreach program, RATE, or Raising Awareness Through Theater Expression.
"We just really feel it is important for children and families to be exposed to the magic of theater," says Madeline Franklin, co-founder of Fremont Street Theater.
For this performance, they are partnering with Side Street Studio Arts in Elgin -- which is sponsoring a free children's art workshop on Saturdays before each matinee -- as well as a group of theater ensemble professionals who work to stage children's musicals called JEM 'N Friends.
"There's nothing more gratifying then seeing a child's eyes and face light up," Franklin adds, "by the excitement of a magical story with colorful characters, especially at this time of year."
If you goWhat: "Mrs. Claus Saves Christmas Eve"
When: 7 p.m. Fridays, Dec. 7 and 14, and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, Dec. 8, 9, 15 and 16
Where: Elgin Art Showcase, 164 Division St., 8th floor, Elgin
Tickets: $6 per person
Added bonus: Free kids' art workshop before Saturday matinees from 1-1:30 p.m.
Details: fremontstreettheater.com or sidestreetstudioarts.org