Lightwire Theater impressed America’s Got Talent audiences with glowing, romping dinosaurs, soaring birds and a lightsaber fight. The company’s holiday show Lightwire: A Very Electric Christmas, which debuted at the Joy Theater, has some of that dazzling high-flying spectacle — as when a family of birds gets caught in a snowstorm — but it’s a charming kid-friendly show with a little bit of menace, whimsical dancing flowers and plenty of vibrant choreography.
Lightwire founders Ian and Eleanor Carney have danced in holiday productions of The Nutcraker for 27 years, and some of the best elements of the ballet are part of this dance-based light spectacle, which is performed in almost total darkness. In the opening scenes, toy soldiers wrap gifts and place them under a towering tree. Soon a group of purple rats snoop around the goodies and steal a few. But like all holiday foragers, they would like to find a better gift, and when they hear that a baby bird is lost, they set out to find it before it is rescued.
In Act 1, we see the bird’s parents arrive in New Orleans as the locals enjoy Louis Armstrong’s “Christmas in New Orleans.” But they’re distraught at the disappearance of their child. Far away, the young bird’s spirits are raised when he meets a trio of vibrant worms. The rats continue to plot and search.
A couple of the early dance numbers linger to showcase the company’s original lighting effects and costumes. Bright and acrobatic worms and flowers dance, and rats suddenly appear and disappear in dark corners. The show is dramatic, but it’s gentler than the battling dinosaurs of the company’s first show, Darwin the Dinosaur, and it dwells on the pleasures of the holidays, with lit candy canes, red bows and an interlude for a holiday tune performed live. Snippets of contemporary music break up the movements taken from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker score and keep adults amused, as do other pop cultural references. The show also weaves classic elements, such as worms doing The Nutcracker’s “Russian Dance,” with much more contemporary culture, as when the parents pull out an Apple laptop to view a slideshow and video of their lost youngster. Some parts of the battle royale between the rats and the toy soldiers happen in Matrix-like bullet time, and the stage is busy as a multitude of rats and soldiers skirmish. Much of this makes Act 2 fly by as the story neatly ties together its disparate elements.
Electric Christmas is a refreshing holiday show that combines traditional elements, the excitement of electroluminescent wire and light effects and a simple but compelling story. It’s appropriate for young children and tugs on heartstrings, and all ages can enjoy Lightwire’s clever staging and slick choreography.
Lightwire: A Very Electric Christmas
The Joy Theater, 1200 Canal St., (504) 528-9569