A Civil War Christmas: An American Musical Celebration | Northlight Theatre | Theater & Performance, Holiday Shows | Chicago Reader
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A Civil War Christmas: An American Musical Celebration 

When: Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 26 2010
Price: $35-$55
As a Jew, I sometimes don't know whom I trust less--America-for-Christians Christians or the nominally tolerant kind. The first are scary but honest, the second will kill you with condescension. Paula Vogel's holiday musical puts her in the latter category. Set mostly in Washington, D.C., on Christmas Eve 1864--when both the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln's life were nearly over--the show opens with nods to Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, and there's even a Jewish character, a gravely ill Union soldier named Moses Levy. The narrative is festooned with period songs and covers a lot of territory, but mainly focuses on a runaway slave child who's equated with the baby Jesus. The message has to do with acknowledging the "divine spark" in everyone. For all her expansiveness, though, Vogel can't let the poor Jew be. In his delirium Levy confuses Walt Whitman with Saint Nicholas and is consoled by the notion that he's being watched over by a figure out of Christian folklore. Then he's obliged to die--to the strains of a yiddishe fiddle, as if he were Tevye--so as not to muddle the big, Christmas-extolling final number with his presence. Other than that, it's a good show. --Tony Adler



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