The mouse in Clement Moore’s 1823 poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” isn’t stirring, of course, but the one in Ken Ludwig’s stage update of the holiday classic is wide awake.
Ludwig, the famed Broadway playwright behind “Crazy for You,” “Lend Me a Tenor” and “Moon Over Buffalo,” used the old tale of a St. Nicholas visit as a jumping-off point for his 2011 reboot, in which the mouse and a young girl find new Christmas Eve hijinks in the old tale.
A new version of Ludwig’s play with music is now on national tour that launched in North Carolina last month. It comes to Aspen’s Wheeler Opera House on Sunday and then concludes with stops in Beaver Creek and Denver.
“He is the master of American farce,” said director Tim Drucker, who oversaw the new touring production, enlisting five actors playing multiple parts. “So there is a lot of slapstick.”
In this version, the mouse and his playmate “go on a ‘Princess Bride’-esque adventure to the North Pole.”
Drucker updated the 2011 play for a 2019 audience, adding a host of fresh pop culture references and new music.
“I was pulling references from across the board to make it something new that would also feel familiar, and something parents can enjoy as much as kids,” Drucker said.
So a swordfight in the play sends up “Star Wars” and “Kill Bill,” for instance, and the style of a hip-hop musical number end up, in Drucker’s words, with a “Baby Shark meets Lizzo” sound.
Drucker, who specializes in musical and comedy productions, is having a big holiday season. Along with launching the national tour of “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” he also recently opened a new off-Broadway musical parody of “Love Actually.”
Silly as the action on-stage may be, Drucker takes the role of creating theater for young audiences quite seriously.
“I feel a great responsibility in giving kids what may be their first experience with live theater,” he said. “Hopefully it’s important for developing minds and using the rules of theater so they understand what’s special about this versus looking at a screen.”