David Turrentine, Samantha Bozi Photo by Matt Ferguson
Making its auspicious debut just in time for the holiday season, a World Premier musical entitled Eleanor’s Very Merry Christmas Wish The Musical. Based on the 2015 book of the same name written by Chicago’s own Denise McGowan Tracy, Eleanor is the tale of the North Pole’s favorite rag doll daughter, longing for a family of her very own. Workshopped only a year ago, this production certainly subscribed to the philosophy more is more. No other holiday production’s costumes shone as brightly. Tatjana Radisic’s glitter on top of tinsel on top of sparkle on top of sequins, eyepopping costuming and Khaki Pixley’s whimsical make-up design was enough to warm the heart of any cynical Grinch. Adding almost a dozen original toe-tapping tunes, all penned by Tracy and Kathleen Butler-Duplessis, Eleanor’s wish looks granted, destined to be a part of the Windy City theatrical landscape for many years to come.
The action is all set in Santa’s bustling workshop at the North Pole where everyone’s favorite dolly, Eleanor (Samatha Bonzi) sits, longing for a best friend and family of her very own. Year after year, she watches as thousands of other toys are gifted away to wanting girls and boys, devasted that she never makes Santa’s cut. Turning to a slew of brightly adored North Pole contemporaries, including the aptly named Twinkle (Lindsey Jane Bullen) Sprinkle (Scott Gryder/John Marshall, Jr.) Sparkle (Kim Green) and Glimmer (Cara Chumbley) all concluded they enjoy sweet Eleanor far too much to ever dream of parting with her. Scratching her yarn covered head (Kevin Barthel inventive wig design) our perplexed protagonist turned to the Pole’s leading couple, Santa (David Turrentine) and Mrs. Claus aka Cookie (Erin Parker) for guidance. The Kringles determine with the help of Santa’s mischievous cousin, Clara (the always delightful Emily Rohm) they will find the perfect child for the collective’s favorite star.
Enter Noelle (Sydney Swanson) a young girl who hasn’t adjusting to her new school and new city, Chicago, as suitably as her mother, Holly (Emily Rohm in a double role, clearly there is nothing this dynamic diva cannot do) would’ve liked. Recalling memories of her own childhood best friend, a rag doll much like Eleanor herself, Holly convinced her young daughter to write a letter to Santa asking him for assistance in finding her a friend and confidant of the toy variety. Does Santa deliver on Noelle’s wish? Will Eleanor find her forever home? Could Noelle wake up on Christmas morning to find a new best friend waiting for her under the tree? Let me just say, all wishes are granted when you make a wish in Denise McGowan Tracy’s happy holiday landscape.
In addition to the aforementioned magical tinsel quaking costumes, the original score was truly written more for the attending holiday harried mothers in the audiences than the kiddos tucked quietly next to them. While the little ones gazed forward, mesmerized by the overly exaggerated choreography of Director Zachary L. Gray and the seasonally appropriate sets from Kehoe Designs, the adult members of the audience giggled during the cleaver lyrical quips regarding Instagram and Pinterest ready packages placed precariously under the tree during “The Wrap It Rap” number. Sweet nostalgia reigned during “The North Pole is a Magical Place” and “Make Your Wish.” David Fiorello pulls double duty as well, serving as both Musical Director and one-man house band.
Charming from start to finish, this brisk 65-minute new musical concluded with the ever-important lesson about fostering the foundation of friendship. Add to that a photo op with Santa and the gang before you leave the Greenhouse Theater and Eleanor’s Very Merry Christmas Wish The Musical holiday showcase is all but wrapped up in its own beautiful red velvet bow. All you will need to add is a stamp, and more importantly buy a ticket, for this picture-perfect holiday postcard of a show.
Eleanor’s Very Merry Christmas Wish The Musical is now playing at the Greenhouse Theater Center through 12/29/2019