REVIEW: Greater Boston Stage Company’s ‘All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914’ moving and miraculous
Witnessing a phenomenon is a rare and precious thing. It was nothing short of miraculous watching Greater Boston Company’s All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 which details that short period in history where enemies united briefly during the depths of War War I on Christmas Eve 1914. Disillusioned and missing their loved ones, soldiers demonstrated compassion and the mercy of the human spirit as both sides sang carols, exchanged goods, and mutually wished for the war to end.
Directed poignantly by Ilyse Robbins and compellingly written by Peter Rothstein, Greater Boston Stage Company presents the award-winning documentary musical, All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 through December 23 as a digital performance and live in person at Greater Boston Stage Company, 395 Main Street in Stoneham, Massachusetts. The show is approximately 70 minutes with no intermission. Click here for more information and tickets.
It is surprising that The Christmas Truce of 1914 is not more widely known. Joyeux Noel, The Christmas Truce, various documentaries, and this show are a few of the ways that this short historical period is recorded. It should be an annual tradition like How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Frosty, Rudolph or A Charlie Brown Christmas. It stands as a significant reminder of a Christmas Eve miracle that occurred only once during War World I’s long and grueling four year time span. Most soldiers first joined thinking the war would end by Christmas.
A dimly lit, bare stage is all that is revealed at the start of All is Calm, but what transpires as the show progresses is a rich landscape of moonlight, song, and memories. Though this show features musical interludes, it is not a traditional musical. It is more like a documentary that features stunning music and carols inviting the audience into the warmth, spirit, sacrifice, and the true meaning of the season.
Comprised of ten cast members who take on several identities during the production as they recollect that time period, All is Calm boasts powerful and silvery harmonies chiming into the wintry night sung a cappella without a band. Music Director Matthew Stern does a sensational job with Erick Lichte and Timothy Takach’s vocal arrangements which includes popular carols such as Silent Night, O Holy Night, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Angels We Have Heard on High, and Auld Lang Syne.
All is Calm is a beautiful ensemble piece and each cast member rises to the occasion, but when a renowned German tenor leads a stirring rendition of Franz Gruber’s Stille Nacht in No Man’s Land, it is difficult to pinpoint a more memorable moment.
Dressed in muted military uniforms and kilts faithful to the era’s period and culture by Bethany Mullins, the collaborative cast demonstrates heartwarming chemistry and yet simultaneously depicts each soldier’s growing isolation in sorrow, fear, turmoil, and anguish as they progressively experience war’s cruel reality. Integrating direct quotes from soldiers, narration, and uplifting carols such as Wassail as well as exceptional and heartrending songs such as I Want to Go Home, many times moved me beyond words.
Though the extraordinary harmonies are a large part of the production, the production’s real mastery also resides in its stillness. That brief interlude during a harrowing time where friendships were forged and sweet peace was nestled in the silence of enemies who joined together in the joy of the season and the sadness in their hearts for what was in store.
Greater Boston Stage Company presents the award-winning documentary musical, All is Calm: The Truce of 1914 through December 23 as a digital performance and live in person at Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham, Massachusetts. The show is approximately 70 minutes with no intermission. Click here for more information, tickets, and a look at their upcoming events.