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THEATER REVIEW The Land of Forgotten Toys
by Sean Margaret Wagner
2019-12-10

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Authors: Music by Dylan MarcAurele; book and lyrics by Jaclyn Enchin and Jennifer Enchin, based on a story by Larry Little

At: The Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets: GreenhouseTheater.org or 773-404-7336; $25-$45. Runs through: Dec. 29

With The Land of Forgotten Toys, The Greenhouse Theater Center and CPA Theatricals have worked to ensure their world premiere production isn't a holiday snack—it's the whole dang meal.

With original songs by Dylan MarcAurele, book and lyrics by Jaclyn and Jennifer Enchin and Mike Ross, and original story by Larry Little, this production covers a wide area of holiday subjects, but may need some paring down before it hits home. Director Nicholas Reinhart and music director Stephen Coakley provide a minimalist staging, but there's still plenty of fluff to wade through.

Welcome to a brand new holiday universe, centered around Santa's workshop: The Land of Forgotten Toys. According to legend, the Queen of the Northern Sky ( Katie Reid ) collects forgotten and broken playthings and provides them to Santa ( Randolph Johnson ) to fix and re-distribute for Christmas. This is such common folklore, it's spawned a popular line of toys that have flown off the shelves at She-TOY-gan, a Wisconsin toystore. This shortage leaves two teen clerks, Grace ( Bre Jacobs ) and Nikki ( Mary-Margaret Roberts ), in a bind with store owner and Grace's aunt, Charlotte ( Liz Norton ). In her haste to escape the shop and explore the great unknown, Grace accidentally triggers the magical polaris star around her neck, which sends Grace and Nikki to the wilds of the North Pole.

Grace and Nicki have been summoned by the Queen of the Northern Sky to investigate Santa's workshop which is compromised by Santa's evil sister Charlotta ( Liz Norton ). The only help they have is from a fix-it elf, Schmedrick ( Quinn Kelch ), and a small army of forgotten toys. There's a pitchy karaoke machine ( Brittney Brown ), an overheating Fun Oven Supreme ( Cathy Reyes McNamara ), a Barbara doll with a too-effective kung-fu strike ( Evelyn Crane ), a taxi-cab transformer ( Lucas Crossman ), an old trivia game ( Josh Bishop ) and a Game Dude with an electrical short ( Jabari Thurman ).

The Land of Forgotten Toys wants to incorporate something for everyone. It's a holiday morality tale, a rollicking musical, a romantic comedy, a state of the art multimedia visual experience, and it even encourages girls to pursue leadership in the STEM fields. It's a lot.

The show does itself one service by insisting that women and actors of color portray most characters in an expansive world. Jacobs and Norton both have amazingly rich vocals, and make compelling mismatched foes. Also, you're unlikely to find any duo as relentlessly perky as Roberts and Kelch. The unlikely standouts in this cast, however, are it's youngest members: Joe Scott and Maya Keane as a pair of conniving elves with fantastic comedic timing. Those kids are going places.


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