If You Go
“Murray the Elf & the Case of the Terrifying Tinsel,” recommended for ages 5 & older, takes the stage at Act II Playhouse, 56 E. Butler Ave., Ambler, PA 19002, Dec. 21 - 28 (Dec. 21 sold out).
Tickets: $8, kids; $10, seniors; $12, adults.
Info: 215-654-0200 or www.act2.org.
Follow Murray on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MurrayTheElf
But there’s also a local elf, who came to Ambler last year for the first time. He’s back this year, at the Act II Playhouse. His name is Murray and he’s the star of his own show, “Murray the Elf and the Case of the Terrifying Tinsel.”
It’s a world-premiere play for kids and their families that runs Dec. 21 through 28.
Act II’s Communication and Education Director Bill D’Agostino wrote the play, which is a comedy and a mystery.
The story: a terrifying Tinsel Monster is spotted in the North Pole. When an old clockmaker disappears, Santa’s elves become fearful and stop making toys.
Mrs. Claus calls upon Murray the Elf to investigate, but he’ll need the audience’s help. It’s the only way Christmas can be saved!
Last year, Murray was on the “…Case of the Missing Mistletoe.” It was found.
Will Murray and his holiday friends be successful this year, too?
Will Dennis plays Murray and Andy Shaw plays, well, everybody else, including: Chilly the Snowman, a grumpier version of Frosty; a penguin named Humphrey, who speaks in code; Mrs. Claus; and Rudy the Red-Nosed Reindeer, who’s Rudolph’s grandson and sleigh-leader now.
Shaw uses different voices as one way to distinguish who’s who. Rudy has a red nose and antlers, of course, but also a specific way of talking.
“He has a North Pole accent,” he said, “a heavy Canadian accent.”
Shaw likes the challenge of inhabiting the various personalities.
“It’s one of the things I love about acting — coming up with different characters and how to embody them, especially physically — how they walk and move,” he said.
And he likes entertaining kids and hearing that they had a good time, especially solving the mystery.
“I’ve met them in the lobby on the way out in the past and they tell me when they figured it out or that they did before Murray did,” he said.
D’Agostino said Murray previously appeared briefly in a variety show. He became the star of his own show when Act II decided to create a children’s production last year. (If you didn’t see last year’s show, don’t worry. This year’s show is not a sequel; it just stars the same character on a new adventure.)
D’Agostino primarily writes children’s theater.
“I love delighting and entertaining families,” he said.
The theater bug bit him in high school and he loved it from the first time he stepped on stage, he said. He attended a theater camp between freshman and sophomore years in high school and that’s when he began writing. He performed with the Popcorn Hat Players Children’s Theatre in Harrisburg, portraying Aladdin and other characters in various fairytales before focusing on being a playwright.
Knowing he’s making children laugh, especially his 16-month-old daughter, Celia, inspires him.
“The sound of her laughter is my favorite sound in the world. I love the sound of kids laughing. I love entertaining them,” he said.
And he gets to entertain them through theater, which he also loves.
“I want to reach kids early and make them theater addicts, like I am,” he said.
D’Agostino thinks it’s important during this time of year for families to get together and laugh.
“I don’t remember what I got as presents as a kid, but I remember all of us being together and having a good time,” he said.
And he knows that the kids who see Murray’s story might remember the experience for their entire lives.
“I feel lucky,” he said, “that we get to make memories with families.”