If it’s Christmastime, Tony Viscioni must be starring in a Mansfield Playhouse production.
“Christmas is about traditions, and this has become a Christmas tradition for me,” he said.
Viscioni said the latest from the Playhouse, “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus,” is his sixth or seventh holiday show. It is being offered the next two weekends.
He plays L. Frank Baum, an American author best known for his children’s books, particularly “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and its sequels. He wrote 14 novels in the Oz series, plus 41 other novels, 83 short stories, more than 200 poems and at least 42 scripts.
Baum wrote “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.” In this adaptation by Pat Cook, Baum is the narrator.
“It starts out with me writing at my desk. I start interacting with the mythical characters that are in my story,” Viscioni said. “It’s a fun take on all the folklore around Santa Claus.”
Play tells the origin story of Santa Claus
In “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus,” Baum lets us in on his secret: the story of Saint Nicholas as told to him by Necile, the nymph who found Claus and raised him as her own in the world of Knooks, Faeries, Ryls and, yes, even the dreaded Awgwas.
“Beware the Awgwas,” Necile warns Claus, “they hide under beds to frighten human children!” And so Claus decides he must leave the world of the Immortals and live among the humans, making toys to make children happy. He gets help from Jack Frost, who shows him the Frost Gale, allowing Claus and his sleigh to fly and from two runaway Knooks, Lem and Barlo, who want to hear children laugh.
This delightful tale answers once and for all how Santa Claus made the first toy, why he climbs down chimneys and, most of all, how he learned to laugh that great “Ho, ho, ho.”
Viscioni said Baum has been a fun character to get to know.
“I get to be the straight man,” he said.
His last appearance at the Playhouse was in January for “Klondike Kalamity.”
“I went from an Indian chief to an author,” Viscioni said of the different roles. “That’s part of the magic of stage.”
Mansfield Playhouse planned to go with different show
Doug Wertz, the artistic director at the Playhouse, said he planned to go with a different show for the holidays but couldn’t get the rights.
“It was just by happenstance,” Wertz said of doing this play. “I thought it was just a magical story, one for the whole family.”
The play features a sprawling cast of 34, including many children.
“This cast has been wonderfully dedicated,” Wertz said. “They’ve been a great bunch of people to work with.
“It is absolutely fun for the entire family. There is a lot of humor in it.”
Cameron Wertz, Doug’s son, is making his return to the Playhouse stage.
“I get to be young Santa,” Cameron Wertz said. “I felt like it suited me with my build.
“It’s something different for me, too. It was kind of fun to be in that cheerful mood. Every other character I’ve played has been in the angry process.”
Now 20, Cameron grew up on the Playhouse stage.
“I’m glad I’m back,” he said. “It’s different because I’m grown up. It’s nice to hit the stage again.”
Stefaniuk joining her children on stage
Rebekah Stefaniuk plays Necile.
“My kids absolutely love the Playhouse,” she said. “I stay when they have their practices. I thought, ‘Why don’t I try out?”’
Necile raises the human baby Santa as her own.
“To watch her watching her son grow up to be such a phenomenal man is really redeeming for her,” Stefaniuk said. “That’s the mom of Santa, who brings joy to all children.”
Two of Stefaniuk’s real children, Caroline and Wesley, are also in “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.”
“Every drive over her, they help me memorize my lines,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful experience for my family, for sure.”
If you go
What: “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus”
When: 7 p.m. Dec. 9, 10, 16 and 17; 2:30 p.m. Dec. 18
Where: Mansfield Playhouse, 95 E. Third St.
Tickets: $13 for general admission, $12 for seniors and $8 for students
More information: Call 419-522-2883 or visit mansfieldplayhouse.com. The box office is open from 1 to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and one hour prior to shows.
This article originally appeared on Mansfield News Journal: santa-claus/69701315007/” data-ylk=”slk:Mansfield Playhouse offering origin story of Santa Claus” class=”link “>Mansfield Playhouse offering origin story of Santa Claus
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