Elementary and middle school students from Bergen County were treated to a holiday spectacle last Thursday morning when Verona, New Jersey’s Pushcart Players performed their enchanting “A Season of Miracles” show in the Berrie Center’s Sharp Theater.
The Pushcart Players, a twice Emmy-nominated, “award-winning touring theater company specializing in arts education for children,” has been actively traveling the country since the mid-1970s, according to pushcartplayers.org. The social-profit organization not only entertains young audiences but also educates them simultaneously. The Pushcart Players’ website states that the their cast is made up of teaching artists who aim to “provide workshops, acting classes and residency programs to schools, community centers and summer session programs.”
Some of the shows that the theater program puts on are “A Cinderella Tale…Happily Ever After,” “Ellis Island: Gateway to America,” “PETER and the WOLF,” “Stone Soup and Other Stories,” “The Last,” “The Very Last…Butterfly,” “The Velveteen Rabbit” and “Storytelling by Gerald Fierst.”
Classes that attend the shows are given study guides before and after the performance assessments to maximize their learning experience. The theater group “[adapts] to any location with innovative scenery, lighting and sound systems,” as per their website, and has performed throughout the United States and in even the White House.
The Sharp Theater was filled to the brim with young people eager to watch the enchanting show about numerous holiday stories. The Pushcart Players portrayed tales of Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. They performed scenes from O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi,” E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “The Nutcracker,” Ruth Fost’s “The Kwanzaa Kite” and Chelm’s “The Chanukah Miracle.”
The cast’s witty and soul-bearing performances resonated with the children and parents who attended the show. The goal of the production is to provide alternative ideas for what the holiday season is about and make the young audiences appreciate their loved ones, their homes and their lifestyles. The scenes each have their own morals and meaning behind the funny and endearing display.
Set to Tony Award-winner Larry Hochman’s score, the show has a cheerful, nostalgic tone and transitions smoothly from one story to the next. The students in the audience were engaged and commonly laughed to the comical script and clapped along with the cultural music and dances performed.