Special to The Sumter Item
"'Twas the Night Before Christmas" was written almost 200 years ago by Clement C. Moore; Ken Ludwig's play of the same name is much more recent, and it's a lot funnier. The play is Sumter Little Theatre's Christmas show, opening Thursday.
"The (Moore) poem is the springboard for Ken Ludwig's play," Director Michael Duffy said. "The play takes place on the night before Christmas and begins with Uncle Brierly (Colby Rearden) attempting to read the poem to the kids (the audience)."
The poem is never read in its entirety; however, there are more poems, Christmas music and even some hip-hop in Ludwig's first venture into children's theater. The play is equally entertaining for adults, Duffy and his cast agree.
Ludwig even employs his "mistaken identity" device in this one - think past SLT productions of his comedies, such as "Lend Me a Tenor" and "Leading Ladies."
"He has sort of a 'formula' in his comedies," Duffy said. "Besides mistaken identity, there's always some sort of chase scene." The chase in " Night Before Christmas" involves a couple of mice, a young girl and two villainous characters.
While there are several adults in the play, Duffy said he's enjoying working with the younger cast members, most in SLT's Youth Theater.
"There are a different set of challenges," he said. "They don't have pre-conceived ideas, they take direction very well, and they give it everything they've got. That's delightful."
Jayde Torres, 14, has played the beyond-mischievous Imogene Herdman in SLT's "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever." In Ludwig's Christmas play, she's young Emily, who with her best friend, Amos the mouse, sets out to save Christmas.
The role of Emily, Jayde said, is challenging and fun.
"She sees the good in everybody," she said. "The play is mostly around her imagination. Adults will be laughing their heads off just like the kids. It will definitely get everyone ready for Christmas."
Sylvia Hunt and Jayde play Emily on alternate nights.
Carlos Waters, who plays Amos, is also 14 and a student at Alice Drive Middle School and has been taking classes at Sumter Little Theatre since he was "5 or 6." His previous experience includes roles in "Cyrano," "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" and "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever." He said he's considering acting as a career.
Seeming somewhat timid at first, Amos becomes a mighty mouse once he's at the North Pole forced to face the villainous Sir Guy of Gisbourne, played by Colby Rearden, who doubles as the kind Uncle Brierly.
"It's a stretch for me, going from good guy to bad guy," Rearden said. "It was challenging - playing the bad guy is fun. It brings out my inner child.
"It's actually harder than doing an adult show. It's not what I expected - these kids are talented.
"This show will definitely make you feel warm inside and bring out your Christmas spirit."
The stage manager is Kendall Jones, Sylvia Pickell is costumer and wardrobe mistress and Mike Bacon is lighting and sound technician. The set was designed and constructed by Duffy, Kevin Cooper, Kendall Jones, Jennica Greco and Carmela Bryan.
Sumter Little Theatre, 14 Mood Ave., in the Sumter County Cultural Center, presents Ken Ludwig's "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," sponsored by SCE&G. Shows are Thursday through Sunday and Dec. 7 through 10. Sunday matinees begin at 3 p.m., other shows at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students, seniors and military.
Reserve tickets online at www.sumterlittletheatre.com/tickets.html or call (803) 775-2150.