Peggy Sue Dunigan

The Quiltmaker’s Gift

By - Oct 23rd, 2007 02:52 pm
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A kaleidescope of hues in imaginative sets and costume design delights the eyes in The Quiltmaker’s Gift, presented at First Stage Children’s Theater. The whimsical details in this musical fable will capture the attention of a younger audience, but adults will smile along with throughout the 90 minutes.

Based on the picture book by Jeff Brumbeau, Alan J. Prewitt adapted the book for the stage. The musical becomes a “story within a story” as an old man tells the tale to a young friend he meets on the road. Several moral lessons are learned along the way and, while overt, are cleverly revealed in well-written songs by lyricist Steven Mark Kohn and composer Craig Bohmier, including the almost-lullaby “Earth, Water, Wind, and Sky.”

The story the old man tells is of a powerful but unhappy King who tries to find satisfaction in life by filling his castle to the brim with things, a multitude of things. The item he most desires is an exquisitely made quilt from the Quiltmaker who lives on the mountain, but her handiwork is never sold, at any price, and is only given away to those in need. By forcing the Quiltmaker to fulfill his request for a quilt, the King begins to wonder, “Without all those things, what would I be?” The King, in discovering his new self, receives both the tangible gift of the Quiltmaker’s hand, but the more important gifts of sacrifice and selflessness.

Performances by John Maclay as the King and the lovely Liz Baltes as the Quiltmaker fill the stage with charm. Every piece fit together pleasurably with a great supporting cast, which includes Lee Becker as an “unbearable scareable bear” and a comical six-soldier ensemble, subject to the King’s every whim, which as he describes “wear unusual pants just to amuse me.” Their choreographic numbers keep the musical moving while entertaining everyone in the audience.

The reward of The Quiltmaker’s Gift is twofold – an engaging afternoon of theater and a simple reminder the best gifts are given, freely and with sacrifice. This is aptly demonstrated by the donation of the three stunning quilts used in the production, handmade by the North Shore Quilter’s Guild and requiring about ten months to complete. The First Stage performance stitches together a “tapestry of colors, rich and rare,” in story, song, and dance, asking the audience to remember where happiness is found along with that ability to keep hope nearby. The Quiltmaker encourages the King and audience as she says, “Hope is never far way, and sometimes even closer than you think.” VS

First Stage Children’s Theater presents The Quiltmaker’s Giftat the Todd Wehr Theater, Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, through November 11. For information please call 414.273.7206 or www.firststage.org

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