Christmas Windows: Good Effort Meets Bad Script

There is a lot of talk going around (at least in the theatre department) about the latest musical Christmas Windows of 1937 or The First Lady of Christmas. I saw the Saturday matinee performance this past weekend, and as a theatre third I felt rather conflicted- scratch that, I was pissed. That’s right, I was pissed off at this theatre production and my discussion with other theatre students only further flamed this anger.

The musical is based on Dorothy Shaver, the first woman to be named first vice president of Lord and Taylor in 1937. She revolutionized the window display during a Christmas of the depression by simply creating something beautiful for passers-by to admire instead of trying to sell them something. In addition she was also a huge supporter of American fashion. While this is well and good, the book and lyrics to this musical were sub-par; the audience knew the production was going to be…interesting as soon as the director stepped out prior to the show and apologized, informing us to beware the second act. Turns out, it had only recently been completed and the cast had just learned most of the songs the weekend prior. Though the first act was vaguely entertaining (with its rotating shop window, beautiful costuming, jazzy band, and valiant effort from the cast), act two was literally a semi-circle of chairs, three or four music stands, and a few props to accompany the rather illustrious set. It was unfortunate.

I want to emphasize though, that I was not disappointed by the actors. Mireya Gonzalez’s (class of 2014) portrayal of Dorothy Shaver was high energy and had a beautiful voice. Also quite enjoyable were the guys on the board of directors, and their number “Women Should Stay Out of Retail” was one of my two favorites in the whole show. The second number I found myself humming along to was, “You Make the Clothes, the Clothes Don’t Make You” with Dorothy and the fabulous Hattie. Chloe Delaitre (class of ’14), who played Hattie, was also a joy to watch, and a strong soprano at that!

However, as I said before, the problem wasn’t with the cast, or the director, or the set, or costumes, or any of that- it was the script. You can’t make a fantastic show out of a shabby script. There were off-putting Nazi jokes and too many damn characters; I’m not down with either of these things. There was no real arc to any of these characters and because they were exactly that, characters, I honestly didn’t empathize with them. The play also lacked a center event, a climax, because an over-the-top fight scene with sparse information doesn’t count. Did I mention there were talking mannequins? And despite the jazzy tunes that the band was knocking out, these didn’t make the lyrics sound any better.

Why did the theatre department choose to mount an unfinished show? Why were they in the rehearsal process for 3 months? And why have a huge budget in comparison to finished plays going up if the book, lyrics, and music weren’t even complete? It’s just a shame to see such great theatre coming from our department, and then to be disappointed with this huge production.

So screw that script, and thank you ensemble, band, director, and crew for doing your absolute best to make do with what you were given.

Image Credit: Google

Ellen Winter hails from Washington, D.C. where she indulged in frequenting various clubs, house shows, theaters, field concerts, and spy museums. She is super stoked to be a part of the SLCspeaks team and looks forward to exploring the arts and music in New York with a new lens. Through years of in-depth research, she has concluded that black coffee, an everything bagel with cream-cheese and a side of bacon is the most delicious breakfast ever to be invented- there is no counter argument.

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