written and directed by Mary Zimmerman
adapted from a story by Hans Christian Andersen
at the Lookingglass Theatre
through January 13. 2019
Reviewed by Ruth Smerling
MARY ZIMMERMAN JUMP STARTS THE HOLIDAY SEASON WITH HER DAZZLING WORLD PREMIERE
THE STEADFAST TIN SOLDIER
This may be the best Christmas season ever. The streets are all decorated with string after string of lights. Huge, decorated Christmas trees pave the streets and everything is half price or less. It’s going to be a Happy Holiday Season, a Merry Christmas and certainly good will toward all with permeate the atmosphere. A big contribution to the mirth and merriment is made this year by Lookingglass Theatre ensemble member Mary Zimmerman. Her world premiere adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, which she also directs, tells an uncanny story of love, bravery and serendipity, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, a glorious Christmas spectacle is thrilling audiences of all ages at the Lookingglass Theatre.
The story is largely mute yet full of spirited interaction, and designed to be experienced the way a toddler might experience its first Christmas. (Spoiler alert: Never ask Mary Zimmerman to give a big hand. You’ll see what I mean!)
The story is about a tin soldier (Alex Stein) who has all the trappings of a toy soldier except that he has a leg missing because there was not enough tin to complete him, but he still made the cut as a toy. The tin soldier falls in love with a graceful music box ballerina (Kasey Foster). They seem to be made for each other when a Jack-in-the-box pops up, seething with jealousy and tries to steal her away. Soon he’s pushed out of a window, scooped up by two bystanders who make a boat for him and float him out on the water. He’s then eaten by a fish that is purchased for the family’s dinner by their housemaid (Christopher Donahue) who can be quite provocative when bargaining. It seems like it is curtains for the tin soldier. Did her persevere in the name of love or perish at the hands of an evil goblin?
The actors have a live musical accompaniment with piano, string instruments and woodwinds and each musician is costumed, complete with a wig. With a splendid and alluring set by the award winning Todd Rosenthal and internationally renowned Ana Kuzmanic’s vibrant costuming, Zimmerman’s Christmas story is as stunning, provocative and heartwarming as Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, playing at the Goodman Theatre. Mary Zimmerman is one of this millennium’s greatest masters. She uses optical illusion and movement to astound and engage audiences and never fails to deliver an unforgettable and unprecedented masterpiece.
The Steadfast Tin Soldier has made Christmas 2018 in Chicago a spectacular time and should definitely be placed on everyone’s Christmas list as high up as gift buying and Christmas dinner! The Steadfast Tin Soldier runs through January 13 at the Lookingglass Theatre in the Old Water Tower Water Works Building, 821 N. Michigan Avenue. Tickets can be obtained online at lookingglasstheatre.org or by phoning 312-337-0665