‘Babes in Toyland’ showcases DHS talent


Every year, the Dartmouth High Theatre Company (DHTC) can be counted on for staging a well-constructed Christmas show guaranteed to get the audience in the Christmas spirit. Typically, the theatre company puts on a Christmas play in the winter and a musical in the spring.

But instead of a play, this year DHTC decided to perform the musical Babes in Toyland based on the book by R.J. Ryland with music and lyrics by Bill Francouer. The musical was co-directed by Shirley Guerreiro and Denis Lawrence. DHTC will still be performing a musical, The Little Mermaid, in the spring.

When the lights turned off and the play began, the spotlight beamed center stage on junior Alyssa Maitoza as she danced an impressive ballet dance in pointe shoes dressed in a full ballerina costume. Lots of little kids, accompanied by the other high school actors, came singing down the aisles dressed as storybook characters singing the main theme of the musical, “Babes in Toyland.”

The main storyline of the musical focused on the budding romance between the main characters, Mistress Mary (sophomore Abby Rego) and Alan (freshman Kempton Campbell). However, not everything goes according to plans when the evil Uncle Barnaby (senior Emma Clune) will stop at nothing to get rid of his nephew Alan in order to inherit his fortune and marry Mistress Mary. Distressed, Mary and Alan decide to run away to Toyland and start their new life together.

It’s not until they get to Toyland that they realize the master toymaker and his elves are a part of a much bigger scheme. Afterall, no one who ever comes to Toyland ever returns home.

Based on the first act of the show, it was hard to understand how the musical was Christmas related at all besides the fact that it was set at a Christmas Carnival in Mother Goose Land. Widow Piper (senior Elisabeth Ripley) appeared to be the woman from the nursery rhyme, “The old woman who lived in the shoe.” She had 14 kids, all who represented different storybook characters. The entire family ran the Christmas Carnival in order to be able to afford to live in its house.

Barnaby, a handle-bar mustached, black cape and top hat-wearing villain, is true to archetype. He and his sidekicks, Gonzorgo and Roderigo (freshman Kyle Lamontagne and sophomore Iric Rogers, respectively) are greedy, money-hungry goons who constantly cause trouble. The musical followed a very basic storyline and wasn’t very much related to Christmas until the second act which took place in Toyland.

Toyland was set to resemble Santa’s workshop. The Master Toymaker, played by junior Jacob Almeida, was set to resemble Santa, but the show never revealed if that was exactly who he was. The musical focused on telling the story of Mistress Mary and Alan.

DHTC never fails to highlight the talents of each member in a very effective way. The theater program has been growing in popularity and even elementary school students were included in the production as toys, Mother Goose’s children, spiders, gypsies and a number of other parts.

The choreography of the play, done by senior Emma Clune and junior Abigail Richard, was well done and nicely performed.

During one scene, the cast was hiking through the spider forest which featured a very well choreographed and performed dance. The physical height and dancing abilities of each “spider” was accounted for in the choreography which allowed the dance to be much more dramatic and impressive to watch.

The vocal talents of the DHTC members are also very impressive. Clune, Rego, Almeida, and Campbell were all featured as lead vocalists. Junior Frances Howard was also featured as a lead vocalist in one of the musical numbers. Every song was well sang and it’s always nice to see such talent on the DHS onstage. Although the content of the play wasn’t quite as exciting as one would have hoped for, the execution exceeded expectations.

The skills behind the scenes don’t go unnoticed either. Tech manager senior Katie McGuire and assistant tech manager senior Rumi Lazarova did an exceptional job leading all the special effects that go into the shows. This show even featured a fog machine that helped to add even more depth to the show.

When I initially got to the show, I was excited to hear that it was a Christmas musical because I love listening to Christmas songs. Having been to the past DHTC plays, I expected to leave this show in the Christmas spirit. Unfortunately, the show did not live up to that potential. The storyline was fairly confusing to follow, and the cast made a lot of corny jokes relating to the storybook characters that were actually quite cringe worthy. They didn’t draw many laughs from the audience.

Despite the holiday cheer the play was lacking, the acting and performance within the play was exceptional. The performers always do a great job of getting into their roles and truly acting to the best of their ability.