GUEST COLUMNIST: Jim Jackson on 'Christmas Mouse on Holiday'
Playwright and director: Jim Jackson
Cast: Hannah Rockey, Birgitta De Pree, David Wild and Lisbet Jackson
When: 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, 7 p.m. Fridays, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturdays and 1 and 3 p.m. Sundays, through Dec. 22
Where: The Millibo Art Theatre, 1367 Pecan St.
Tickets: $10.50; 465-6321, themat.org
Something else: It's a “Kid’s First” event with milk, cookies and craft activity after the show.
If you are going to ask sensible adults who don’t necessarily need the money to dress up as oversized rodents and sing, dance and merrily jump about for most of the month of December, it really helps to give them funny material. This has been our holiday tradition at the Millibo Art Theatre since 2010 and like any good new “tradition,” it only survives … if you keep doing it.
This holiday season welcomes the third installment of “The Christmas Mouse," a wildly popular saga featuring the familiar comic characters of Lionel (David Wild) and Edwina (Birgitta De Pree). They are an eccentric pair of next-door neighbors who can only navigate the challenges of the holiday celebration with the help of a magical Christmas Mouse.
This original mouse character was created by the very talented Nisa Ari, whose petite cuteness combined with a great singing voice and spunky comic timing charmed young and old alike. Alas, being a Christmas Mouse is seasonal work at best and real life tends to go on the other 11 months of the year -- even for an actor in New York. When Nisa recently enrolled in a doctoral program in art history in Boston, we suspected she might have to hang up her ears and we would be “mouseless” in 2012.
I know what you’re thinking. What's the big deal? Dancing, singing mice are $9.63 a dozen this side of Disneyland. We did think about holding mass auditions but the thought of having a roomful of cute mouse wannabees cranking out “We wish you a Merry Christmas” while pedaling around on a miniature bicycle was too depressing, especially in October.
But we weren’t ready to turn our backs on a two-year-old tradition and the question of an infatuated three year old haunted us: “Mommy, why is there just a Christmas Mouse? Why can’t there be a Mouse in July, too?” Maybe we could just buy some time. Yeah, maybe we’ll just send the Christmas Mouse off on a little vacation and see who steps up to take her place. That became our new story.
Welcome to “The Christmas Mouse on Holiday”! Thirty-five years of doing shows for children has taught me that we are dealing with perhaps the most savvy and certainly the most honest audiences in the theater, so don’t underestimate them. We can only get away with this if we have an equally appealing star to step into the little mousey shoes.
Enter the rat: Olly the Rat (played by the extraordinarily talented comedian Hannah Rockey). who yearns to be “the Christmas Mouse in the package of a Rat.” She is the hired help - a housekeeper for the Furry Mouse Mother, an uproariously funny nine-foot-tall matriarch with a New Jersey accent also played by Birgitta De Pree. Olly the Rat just wants a chance to spread a little Christmas cheer and when a fierce snowstorm strands Lionel and Edwina, she gets her chance. Slapstick and musical mayhem ensues as the Christmas Rat tries to convince everybody to make the best of a bad situation and “just be happy”.
That's a pretty good message for a holiday show these days!
Jim Jackson is the executive director of the Millibo Art Theatre and playwright-director of “The Christmas Mouse on Holiday.”