I'm a big fan of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis's Imaginary Theatre Company because their productions are consistently entertaining and they never fail to send a positive message to their audience. This is important to me as a parent, because there are plenty of Christmas plays for children, but they rarely convey the kind of moral I'd like my child to be getting, or else they're ham-handed in the way that they present it. Playwright Sarah Brandt, along with composer Stephen James Neale, has concocted a nice little gem for the holiday season called A Gnome for Christmas, and it's engaging and informative, teaching a valuable lesson about accepting others for who they are and what they can accomplish, rather than how they appear.
Hapless inventor Leonard Bennett and his daughter Lulu move into a small house for the winter with the first month's rent free as long as they fix up the place. Landlady Agatha Tode is determined to oversee their efforts, and with her short fuse, she's ready to toss them out if they don't come through. But, a friendly gnome for the forest and his friend, a skunk named Frank, are interested in befriending the Bennetts and assisting them in their tasks. Lulu is decidedly skeptical when it comes to funny looking gnomes, and is especially put off by his choice of pets. But, Timmy the gnome works his magic and proves his worth, helping the Bennetts with their renovations. They're even able to win over the crusty Miss Tode.
Alan Knoll does fine work as father and inventor Leonard Bennett. Leonard believes in gnomes and tries to convince Lulu of their worth, but his pleas fall on deaf ears until the proof is irrefutable. Monique Hafen is quite good as Lulu, easily conveying the anxiety of a young girl in an unsure situation. Lulu is concerned, and with good reason, but she learns to have a little faith in the end. Laurie McConnell is properly cantankerous as Agatha Tode, and she also doubles as Frank the skunk, lending him a great cartoonish voice that only Timmy can hear and understand. Jerome Lowe delivers a winning performance as Timmy the gnome, charming his way into Lulu's heart with his magic and persistence.
Doug Finalyson's direction is focused and assured as always. In fact, the ensemble work is smooth as a well-oiled machine. Scott Loebl's changeable scenery is smartly conceived, and Lou Bird's costumes are perfect for this modern fairy tale. Stephen James Neale's music direction is nicely executed, and the songs themselves are a good fit for the story.
The Imaginary Theatre Company's production of A Gnome for Christmas is great family entertainment and well worth seeing. I brought my son to the opening performance and he enjoyed it thoroughly. A Gnome for Christmas continues through December 23, 2012 on the stage at Nerinx Hall.