Have you ever seen on heavily trafficked websites when someone posts a comment that just says “First” after an article is published, I guess to just stake their claim as the uber-geek who happened to get there first? It’s pretty annoying, IMHO.
So I’m going to be the annoying critic who posts “First” about “Children’s Letters to God,” since there is no way I could write a review for publication about this show. The show features a cast of five wonderfully talented kids, one of whom happens to be my son. So clearly I cannot be impartial when it comes to this show, not as much because of the actor who shares my last name but more because of the other kids in the cast. These boys and girls worked incredibly hard, had their already substantial skills amplified by the direction of Jimmy Hicks and Chase Kniffen, and are just nice kids besides being great on stage. I wouldn't be able to write a negative thing about any of them even if I tried.
Honestly, in cases like this, I tend to be more critical of my own, flinching at the nearly flubbed line or the slightly off note more distinctly than the average viewer. So the only thing I’m going to say about the young master Timberline is that I’m incredibly proud of him and his dedication to doing well in his role. It’s not often that a father has the opportunity or the honor to be impressed by the work ethic of his pre-adolescent son. I’ll let others analyze whether in the end he succeeds in his efforts or not.
But I will say this, in a cast that is uniformly excellent, Mackenzie Mercer consistently surprises me with her talent. Perhaps it’s due partially to having seen Sean, Lillie and Eric in other shows and knowing how good they are. But from the first line in the first song, “In the beginning…” the clear tone and unwavering strength of Mackenzie’s voice is just captivating. She’s like one of those people who you hear amidst the dozens of lame “American Idol” try-outs and go, “wow, this is someone with real talent.” And for a teenager to have the poise and clarity to make her role (that of a somewhat love-struck girl) real and not cliché impresses me a great deal.
And one last thing: for people who are writing off CLTG as “a kid’s play,” I would strongly encourage you to reconsider. Personally, I think it’s a show in the same league as Stage 1’s last offering, “tick, tick…Boom!” in terms of the issues it raises, the quality of the songs, and the sheer entertainment value of the evening. And it’s got a slew of laugh-out-loud funny moments. If you like musical theater, don’t miss this show. And don’t mind me: I’ll be the one flinching in the back.