The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title The Quiltmaker's Gift
Organization Sutter Street Theatre
Date(s) of show December 13-28, 2014
Reviewer Gerry Camp

As I was leaving Sutter Street Theatre Sunday afternoon, one thought hit me: “I wish I knew some children to bring to this wonderful show.” I had just seen the second performance of the latest offering in Sutter Street’s family series, “The Quiltmaker’s Gift.” And, while it is certainly a show for all ages, the charming musical folktale will especially delight children and the adults who bring them.

“The Quiltmaker’s Gift” opens with a mound of something under a huge quilt. Gradually the performers emerge and, when the quilt is taken away, an old man (Tom Fearon) is revealed pulling a heavy cart. He is approached by a child (the beautiful Mia Comstock) who is full of questions. Rather than answer directly, he offers to tell her a story.

The story he tells unfolds on stage and has two main characters. The first is, of course, the Quiltmaker, who makes the most beautiful quilts in the world but refuses to sell them. Instead she gives them away to the homeless and needy. In most productions (I checked online) the Quiltmaker is cast as an old woman, a kind of hermit. Director Allen Schmeltz broke with this stereotype and cast a young high school girl, Sarah Johnson, in the part. In my view this was a perfect choice. Not only does she have a lovely singing voice, but her beauty gives the character an appeal sure to win over children in the audience and their parents as well.

The second character is the greediest king you can imagine (another high school student, Luke Donahue, who doesn’t look all that evil but plays the part enthusiastically). This king wants everything in the world and demands that his subjects continually give him presents. As the gifts flow in, the king’s servants stuff them into a chest, which is soon overflowing. In his signature song he sings, “If there are a million things in the world/ I want a million and one.”

Of course the king hears of the Quiltmaker and must have one of her quilts. She won’t give or sell him one. The king threatens the Quiltmaker’s life, chaining her to a sleeping bear and then marooning her on a tiny island. Now this is a Christmas story, so I needn’t tell you that it has a happy ending. The denouement, however, has its own surprises, which I certainly won’t give away.

In addition to the four principals, there is a chorus of four singers. They begin as the king’s servants, serve as his military, and at one point emerge as birds, wind, and water. The “big guy” in the ensemble is Richard Spierto (bass), who also plays the wild—well, not so wild—bear and an eagle. The others are Natalie Collins (soprano), Caiden Falco (tenor), and Marissa Stamas (alto). Their marching and dancing, choreographed by Dian Hoel, suit the action perfectly. Eileen Beaver’s beautiful costumes, as always, make the play a visual treat.

As I said above, if I had children in my life I would eagerly bring them to this delightful show. If you have children in your life, well, you know what my advice is. And I promise, you’ll have a great time as well.

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