Three- Three year olds Charlotte, Drew, and my daughter Zooey sat in the front surrounded by other children and anxiously awaited The Dallas Children’s Theatre’s, Santa’s Holiday for Strings: A Puppetry Extravaganza. The show begins with a gigantic green Christmas present on stage and children in the audience discuss what could be inside.
I have always thought of puppetry not only as entertainment but an art. Puppeteers must manipulate quickly, have agility, fluidity, and be on their toes at all times.
The Dallas Children’s puppeteers wasted no time at all! The children stayed on the edge of their seats anticipating the next scene with popular winter characters including: Frosty, penguins, Santa, Mrs. Claus and more.
Kathy Burks’ Theatre of Puppetry Arts gives the audience the pleasure of viewing all styles of puppetry in Santa’s Holiday, including “Black Theatre.” Black Theatre occurs when puppets perform in a stream of light with invisible puppeteers dressed in black from head to fingertip secretly manipulating them. The audience is enchanted while watching white floating balls dance in the air.
A rosy cheeked Santa puppet wearing cowboy boots enters the stage and the holidays officially begin. Children of all ages are suddenly quiet and extremely focused.
Today’s child is used to being constantly entertained and this show delivers with clever special effects including a “Santa sky cam” projector that showed: snowfall, an airplane, hints of a reindeer, and eventually, Santa. There is also fabulous Christmas music that kept my daughter bopping to the beat the entire time.
There is nice sequencing in the story. I liked that the dierector kept coming back to the Christmas tree and “Ranger Bob’s Sky Cam”. Ranger Bob is the largest puppet I’ve ever seen! This Wisconsin speaking ranger is searching with his “sky cam” in Alaska for proof of flying reindeer. This made the children very curious, hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa and his reindeer.
Children will enjoy being tested when magical white hands put together Frosty the snowman the wrong way and when a trick-or-treat bucket gets put under the tree. This encourages audience participation. The children also have the opportunity to touch the puppets if they are sitting on an aisle seat because the puppeteers use the entire theatre.
My daughter’s favorite part was the dancing cats. There was a definite nod to the Nutcracker’s “Mother Ginger” and her children. As a dancer, I appreciated the flowing fabrics of the costumes; this made the puppets truly look like they were dancing.
As a native Texan I enjoyed seeing Santa in his cowboy boots, an armadillo puppet and horse singing about decorating a cactus and celebrating Christmas Texas style. This makes the show a treat for those holiday visitors you may have from out of state.
There were ample laughs for the adults as well as children. The All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth humanette puppet had adults rolling!
A breath taking angel ends the show with oohs and aahs!
As a second grade teacher I know how difficult it is to keep an audience of children interested for long periods of time. Santa’s Holiday for Strings succeeded with flying colors. This puppet show has children memorized! Sesame Street’s Abby Kaddaby would say, “That’s so magic!”
When the show ends I look at the faces of Charlotte, Drew and my daughter Zooey; all three have enormous smiles. When asked, “What was your favorite part”? Both Charlotte and Drew said, “Frosty!” My daughter is sticking with the “dancing cats.”
Ashley Cooley is a native North Texan, wife and mother of two, second grade teacher, dancer, Julia Child devotee, University of Alabama Alumni, and certified Pilates instructor featured in the Sept/Oct issue of Pilates Style. Ashley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.