Coming off the musical high from September's successful “Xanadu,” veteran director James Boone is back in the saddle again — without much of a breather, to boot — to helm the next Joplin Little Theatre production, “Return of the Christmas Kid.”
“This is my third time to do this production,” Boone said. “So the nice thing is I know the show very well. Of course, I want to make it bigger and better than I have ever done it in the past. So I’ve been pushing everyone to go big and have a great time.”
Unlike “Xanadu,” he won’t be forced to switch hats between acting and directing.
“I get to just sit back and tell everyone what to do for a change,” he said.
“Return of the Christmas Kid” is a funny and heartwarming play with a purpose, Boone said. It’s an updated, comedic version of “A Christmas Carol.” In the play, Calvin owns a toy store in middle America called The Toy Box. On Christmas Eve, he wants to stay open as long as customers are buying, but family and employees say it isn’t right. Calvin is then visited by Angela, an angel with an attitude.
The play runs at 7:30 p.m. this Wednesday through Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8. Think of the play as a hybrid of “A Christmas Carol,” “A Christmas Story,” “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” and “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
“When we were looking at this season, we wanted to make sure that we had kids involved in our season, and this show lends to that perfectly," Boone said.
It’s a large cast, Boone admitted. Many of the performers are youngsters.
“I love working with kids,” he said. “This is my third show to do with kids here at JLT — ‘A Christmas Story’ and ‘Shrek The Musical.’ However, in Florida, I ran summer camps where we performed shows like ‘Aladdin,’ ‘Willy Wonka,’ ‘Jungle Book’ and more. I’m a kid at heart and love the opportunity to do productions with them.”
Cast members include: Thad Torix, Mary Parker, Wyatt Hensley, Stephanie Allin-Jackson, Karensue Hensley, Justice Stiffler, Emilia Campbell, Dean Velasco, Jocelyn Donegan, Louisa Belle Harkins, Kolby Matson, Ella Schwab, Avery Brill, Zachary Jones, Aaron Brill, JD Wheeler, Angel Capehart, Gary Wheeler, Amanda Burrows, Kennady Schwab, Kale Trosper, Drake May, Gwenna Goodwin, Rachel Severin, Tegan Greim, Sophia Carrier, Elliot Wheeler, Amelia Parker and Elliot Parker.
The play also captures key emotions, ranging from laugh-out-loud hilarity to quiet, somber moments.
The cast is "doing a phenomenal job making us laugh,” Boone said. “And when it comes to the touching moments, the actors are definitely feeling the seriousness and the hard emotions in this production.”
Special to this production, audience members are asked to bring an unwrapped toy to the play and to place it on the stage prior to the start of the play. Those who do will receive a voucher from KOAM-TV for a free item from the concession stand.
“I am so excited to have partnered with KOAM Toybox and Salvation Army,” Boone said. “What’s awesome is this production takes place in a toy store, and the easiest way to have a store full of toys is to have the community bring them.”
Not only will the toys act as show props, but afterward, the toys will be collected and donated “to help families in our community,” Boone said.
“We believe awareness is very important and this event will encourage families to support the children of our area by giving gifts which will in turn be given to children in need in our area,” said Maj. Beckie Stearns with the Joplin Salvation Army.
This is the first time Joplin Little Theatre has partnered with Joplin Salvation Army in this capacity.
Tickets — $18 for adults, $15 for seniors and students, and $8 for children 12 and younger — can be purchased at www.jltplay.com.
After you've watched James Boone's “Return of the Christmas Kid,” check out these other local productions:
• "Miracle on 34th Street," directed by Kaitlin Morrill, debuts at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and runs through Sunday, Dec. 8, as well as Thursday, Dec. 12 through Sunday, Dec. 15 at Stone's Throw Theatre in Carthage. Sunday matinees times are 2 p.m.
Cast members include: Daniel Pool, Naomi Blankenship, Sahara Fugitt, Ian Ferguson, Bill Roehling, Birgit Kuehn, Lee Doss, David Cheek, Edward Towle, Amanda Powell, Matthew Sheppard, Sid Davis, Austin Robinette, Via Dennis, Rachel Martin, Kaitlyn Sanders and Natalie Wilson.
• "Elf the Musical" will be the Christmas show this year at Ozark Christian College. The show debuts Thursday and runs through Sunday, Dec. 8, at the OCC Chapel.
Tickets are on sale now.