The winter holidays are the prime time to stage family-friendly fare. Among the local offerings is the timeless favorite Babes in Toyland presented by Footlite Musicals. The show debuted in 1903, so the script is now public domain, giving Bob Harbin (the director) and Claire Wilcher the opportunity to do some rewrites for the show presented on the Hedback Theater stage. Staple songs of the holidays “Toyland” and “March of the Toys” remain intact, allowing older generations to reminisce and introducing new generations to these classics.
The quality of this show is extraordinary, and when you factor in that Footlite is an all-volunteer organization (as in, no one in the cast or on staff is paid), it becomes even more impressive.
The show depends on and delivers a strong ensemble cast, live orchestra, and behind-the-scenes support. The cast numbers over 35 and the staff over 19, and an orchestra (conducted by Damon Clevenger) fills the pit, so giving credit to each person by name would turn this article into a reprint of the program. Suffice to say Harbin guides the cast effectively through mugging for the audience and hamming up the sentimentality.
Vocal director Melissa Al-Ling Walsh coaxes lovely melodies out of lead vocalists Jonathan Krouse as Tom Piper and Claire Cassidy as Mary Contrary, as well as a convincing drag number from Krouse in “Floretta.” Jeff Fuller as the villain Barnaby dexterously rolls his alliterative lines from his slipless tongue.
The dancing (choreographed by Trish Roberds and supported by dance captains Amy Matters and Alex Vasquez) is confidently executed by the cast, including a dance line of tappers and some startling acrobatics. Standouts are the gypsy dancers and Thomas Whitcomb as Jack.
Adorable costuming was created by costume designer Rachel Hobbs Shelton and head seamstress Darlene Uggen. The layers of petticoats and pantalets for Gooseland girls and the lively and vivid costuming of the gypsies are exceptional. Set designer Will Tople provides cunning backdrops for the show.