Last Weekend for 'The Elf Who Came for Christmas'
Original play delivers a positive holiday message and plenty of laughs for three more shows
It's quite cold outside, but this weekend it was warm inside Sterling Middle School as the Sterling Playmakers delivered a tender performance of "The Elf Who Came for Christmas," a new family musical written and directed by Joe Campanella.
Parts of it funny, parts of it sad, the play tugs on the heartstrings because it's believable. The characters, displaying diverse personas, are authentic and passionate, making it easy for anyone to relate to their emotional struggles and predicaments.
"I love Christmas," said Campanella, "I wanted to write a Christmas play that both adults and children could laugh at and remember."
And laugh they did. The play centers on the Macarelli family and one of Santa's elves, Elliott, who was sent to help the youngest daughter, Molly, find a gift to help rekindle her dad's diminishing holiday spirit. But the poor elf is klutzy, clueless and overenthusiastic, lending to a number of bumbles that elicited boisterous laughter from the audience.
"It is so funny," said Maria Renteria, whose daughter was in the show.
But it is also heartfelt, displaying the true meaning of Christmas and the lengths that some people will go to make others happy.
"It's funny, but it's also warm and dear," said Lora Buckman, the producer of the show.
"It has a good mix of happy and sad moments," said Roseanne Meier, whose daughter was also in the show.
Campanella knew that having a range of comedic and dramatic moments meant that he would have to find actors that could handle the challenge and be convincing and natural in their execution. When Sarah Katherine Lawless came along, he cast her in the role of Elliott the Elf. Even though the Elliot is a male character, Campanella was open to casting a female in the role. He made a great decision. Lawless dominates the stage. At only 11 years old she has serious talent that enables her to connect well with the audience–a quality essential for the role.
No stranger to the stage, she says of her experience acting, "It doesn't matter if you are the lead. It's just a fun experience. Every time I finish a show I have more faith and trust in myself."
Another bundle of talent in a small package is McKensey Struzik, who plays Molly Macarelli. Molly is a straight-A student who is honest and obedient. When Molly takes pains at finding the perfect gift for her dad, she finds herself getting into trouble, something that doesn't sit well with her.
"I love playing this role," says Struzik. "She's a lot like me, so I can play her honestly. I can identify with her."
Campanella said of Struzik, "she's the sweetest actress to work with."
Children fill the cast, presenting its own set of challenges to a director. But according to Roseanne Meier, Campanella did a great job.
"Joe is great at directing kids. He brought them a long way," she said.
Another aspect of the play that contributes to its charm is the music. Written and composed by Campanella and brought to another level by music director, Kelly Gray, the music is cheery, inspirational and spellbinding, especially when sung by the whole company.
Sterling Playmakers is a community theater composed of volunteers. Established 15 years ago, the organization produces three main-stage productions and several smaller productions each year. The group's goal is to produce quality shows that are fun for the whole family.
If you missed this past weekend's performances of "The Elf Who Came for Christmas" three more shows are scheduled this weekend:
- 8:00 p.m., Friday, Dec. 10
- 8:00 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 11
- 3:00 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 12, matinee
All performances will be held at Sterling Middle School, 201 West Holly Avenue, Sterling, VA. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at www.sterlingplaymakers.com/tickets/ or at the door on the night of the performance.