Redheaded Robbie's Christmas Story: The Musical
Ride Again Productions, Tar Heel Tale Tellers, UNC Department of Communication Studies @ Studio Six Theatre, UNC Campus
Redheaded Robbie's Christmas Story is a hard play to evaluate; it's a 45-minute "synthetical performance" adaptation of a children's book. What that means is that it's a bare-bones production with minimal props and a standard piano accompaniment. That said, kids will find it charming, parents will find it painless and the proceeds go to UNC Health Care's DooR to DooR program, so it's for a good cause.
The plot is your standard children's story conundrum—Redheaded Robbie (John Peterson), a tongue-tied elementary schooler who spouts gibberish when he's nervous, is chosen by his teacher, Mrs. Wallace (Dayna Bowers), to write a Christmas story to read at a school assembly. (This premise reminds me of several "confidence-building" exercises my teachers inflicted on me over the years, which I'd rather not talk about.) Robbie's three best friends, Outgoing Emma (Amanda Clark), Cool Katie (Lydia Rogers) and Munching Mona (Tina Lazakis), all help him workshop his story, offering various flawed takes on Christmas that Robbie helps correct. And of course there's a touching twist ending.
The adaptation of Bill Luttrell's picture book (which is sold at performances) uses college-age individuals playing both the child and adult roles, and has been performed regularly since 2005. It features some musical numbers that don't always work, such as a rather inane song about snowflakes and fruitcakes (on the other hand, the children at the sold-out perfomance I attended like it, so I'm obviously not the target audience). But the pacing is brisk, and kids should enjoy the sweet-natured message. It's not in the league of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, but Redheaded Robbie is a harmless and diverting tale for small children.