The Steadfast Tin Soldier brings us hope, gratitude, and magic | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

The Steadfast Tin Soldier brings us hope, gratitude, and magic 

The enchanting Christmas pantomime is masterfully crafted for play and wonder.

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

click to enlarge The Steadfast Tin Soldier

The Steadfast Tin Soldier

Liz Lauren

Many of the memorable experiences created by Lookingglass over the years have been triumphs of imaginative and physical scale—more often than not, the augmented kind—like Amanda Dehnert's Eastland or Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses. This enchanting world-premiere Christmas pantomime is a decidedly different sort, one that resembles a music box: fastidious and deceptively compact and, despite its weight and elegance, ultimately a machine masterfully crafted for play and wonder.

Four powdered wig-clad chamber musicians provide string, piano, and woodwind accompaniment to Hans Christian Andersen's fable about a one-legged tin soldier (Alex Stein) hopelessly in love with a toy ballerina (Kasey Foster). Through dances choreographed by Tracy Walsh and a wide variety of truly spectacular puppets designed by Chicago Puppet Studios, Zimmerman's ensemble of five creatively play out the toys' misadventures at the dinner table, out the window, and in the weeds of a dangerous, indifferent world. The characters grow and shrink with their emotional circumstances. We see a preverbal child, for instance, represented by massive, cloud-like hands and a head while he's engaged in play, then diminish to an insignificant, melancholy wooden doll after being teased by a bratty sibling.

Famously, Andersen's stories don't shy away from the cruelty in humanity, and that gives the sacrifice and love and beauty they mine out of it and showcase more meaning. Zimmerman's adaptation is full of so many brain-tickling visual and emotional contradictions and bits of pure magic than I'm not ashamed to say that I was a blubbering mess by the end of it, my heart full of hope and gratitude. What an absolute gift this Tin Soldier is.  v

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
April 30
Galleries & Museums
May 07

Popular Stories