How Santa Got His Job | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

How Santa Got His Job 

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How Santa Got His Job, Runamuck Productions, at WNEP Theater. Forget everything you've heard about Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle, the Magi, and all that. The real story is out: Santa Claus is a 20th-century workingman from Schenectady. Kathleen Collins and Heath Corson's adaptation of Stephen Krensky's book follows Santa's career path from down-and-out jazz musician through a series of odd jobs to his festive final destiny. Presented as a TV biography complete with commercials, this show reveals how a giving spirit, perseverance, and the love of a good woman made this legendary figure what he is today.

Collins, Corson, and the Runamuck gang have a healthy track record when it comes to inventive, energetic adaptations of lesser-known children's books. This is no exception, but Krensky's straightforward story, aimed at children age four to eight, doesn't have a lot of meat on the proverbial bones. Had the adapters filled in Krensky's characterizations and dialogue, they would have provided a more engaging experience for audience members of all ages and a more fertile playground for the sharp-witted, agile cast (led by Brendan Melanson as Santa, though David Otto Schmidt and Julie Fletcher show particular dexterity, he as mad scientist, elf, zookeeper, and others and she as a frazzled postal dispatcher and Comet, the lisping reindeer).

Still, this production has enough cuteness and giggles to appeal to its target demographic. The television-episode format allows for clever commercial breaks and audience participation--great vehicles for keeping kids' if not parents' attention.

--Kim Wilson

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