The Empress Theatre's world premiere of the new musical version of The Christmas Box is a labor of love for those involved.
The Christmas Box (music, lyrics, and book by David R. Naylor) is based on the bestselling novel by Richard Paul Evans. It tells of young parents who move in with an elderly widow and the lessons they learn from her about the importance of family and the first gift of Christmas. The story is heartwarming and sentimental but not cloying. It succeeds on many levels—artistic, emotional, and spiritual.
The book by David R. Naylor attempts to capture the same feelings as the original novel, but the adaptation loses much of the nuance of the characterizations and meaning. The score, also by Naylor, is filled with catchy tunes and pretty melodies. However, the lyrics are mostly generic holiday platitudes and lack the specificity needed to move the plot along.
It is clear that this production is a labor of love for the crew and cast, which includes many children. Everyone pitches in to help with scene changes and other backstage needs. This is true community theatre, providing everyone a chance to participate and perform.
One shining light in the cast who deserves a special mention is Kelli Hall, who plays Keri Evans. Her performance is well-acted and especially well-sung.
The Christmas Box plays through December 22. For more information or to buy tickets, call the box office at 801-347-7373 or visit www.empresstheatre.com.