Review: ‘Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas’ at Adventure Theatre

If you are looking for some holiday merriment that is fun for all ages, dance and sing your way over to Adventure Theatre’s Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas.

Farrell Parker as Fancy Nancy in Adventure Theatre's production of Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas. Photo by Michael Horan.
Farrell Parker as Fancy Nancy in Adventure Theatre’s production of Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas. Photo by Michael Horan.

Fancy Nancy, with book by Cara Lustik and Matthew Hardy, Music by Randy Klein, Lyrics by Matthew Hardy, and based on the book by Jane O’Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser, is a one-hour romp through a heart-warming holiday with the Clancy Family. Fancy Nancy (Farrell Parker) is a glamorous, singing version of Punky Brewster who loves Christmas. In fact, she loves all holidays because they are a perfect excuse to dress up, but Christmas is her favorite. The story begins with the family search for the perfect tree and Nancy’s quest for the perfect Christmas tree topper. What follows is a string of real-life lessons and adventures sprinkled with music, lights, and love.

Nancy’s adventures are fueled and supported by her little sister Jojo (Alex De Bard), her parents (Christopher Michael Richardson and Megan Adrielle), her neighbor Mrs. Devine (Scott Abernethy), and her grandpa (also Abernethy). The entire cast shines as a well-oiled ensemble, and director Stevie Zimmerman keeps the show running without a breath, maintaining the rapt attention of children and adults alike.

De Bard as Jojo is a standout, giving a high-octane performance that breathes additional life into an already energetic show. Her number “Go, go, go to your room” is the best number in the production, also a credit to the jazzy choreography of Ilona Kessell. Not to ever be outshined is the delightful Parker as Nancy, who does the whole show a favor by making Nancy always authentic and never patronizing. I honestly would see this show again just to watch her tantrums. Her number “The Meaning of Christmas” is the most touching in the show. Both actors remind every person in the audience that the best person to be is yourself.

Richardson and Adrielle portray the kind of parents every kid would love to have: fun, supportive and compassionate. I especially like Adrielle’s beautiful dance solo (once again, kudos to Kessell). Abernethy’s Grandpa is an absolute delight, though his Mrs. Devine falsetto was sometimes hard to hear.

The tech for this show is absolutely spot on. Alicia Tessari’s props were whimsical perfection and despite there being many, many props, were assembled and presented in a way that never interfered with the pace. Speaking of pace, Scenic Design by Klyph Stanford was also impeccable – there were countless set changes, yet the show never stopped moving and every setting had its own special bit of whimsy.

Jason Arnold’s lighting design was strong throughout, with colorful and varied choices that perfectly complemented the setting without being distracting. Sound by Kevin Alexander was also strong, with varying volumes from quiet conversations to screaming tantrum always on point. Katie Touart’s costumes were a hoot, though I wish the Christmas sweaters used in the opening number would have made more appearances. Kudos to Stage Managers Andrew Wilkinson and Olivia Viola and their crew for keeping this show humming. I would make a small recommendation to standardize makeup among the cast – the difference between Nancy’s and Jojo’s makeup is noticeable.

With all this said, bravo to Director Stevie Zimmerman for a well-rounded, seamless production. Sometimes book adaptations into musicals can be stuttered and trite, but Zimmerman’s direction accompanied by Joshua Sommerville’s musical direction and Wayne Chadwick’s orchestration truly make every dollar and minute you will spend with the Clancy Family a joy.

While this show oozes with Christmas traditions such as tree-shopping, gift-wrapping and tree-decorating, it is amazing how many lovely lessons are included. Giving, sharing, kindness, honesty, friendship, authenticity, loving and appreciating your family, overcoming challenges, and creativity are effortlessly integrated throughout, educating the young and serving as a thoughtful reminder to adults. I found this to be the perfect way to start my holiday season and I genuinely hope you will make Fancy Nancy and the top-notch work at Adventure Theatre part of yours.

Running Time: One hour with no intermission.

Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas plays through January 6, 2019, at Adventure Theatre & ATMTC Academy — 7300 MacArthur Blvd (Glen Echo Park), Glen Echo, MD. For tickets, buy them at the door, or purchase them online.