The story of a Nativity play production, an addition to the Dollies series, doubles as a picture book for little ones and an introduction to stagecraft for older children.
Leech uses this volume to allow exploration of a topic through short verbal descriptions, albeit ones that use technically correct language, and color photographs of costumed dolls on custom sets, with all the details—from the hairdos to the props—inviting close study. The dolls look like young children, but each is given its own hairdo and fashion sense. The book begins with a design meeting, at which the show’s director approves the set designer’s sketches. The process continues with auditions, publicity, rehearsals, the technical dress rehearsal, the pre-show choir rehearsal and opening night, all interwoven with job descriptions for the stage manager, set designer, costume designer, sound designer, and lighting designer and crew. The playbill closes the story and doubles as the credits for the book. Readers are likely to enjoy the way the props serve to deepen understanding. While the youngest readers can be entertained by identifying items in the images, like the kazoo, recorder, xylophone, piano and drum in the sound design studio, older readers will enjoy reading the stage manager’s sticky notes and identifying the sources of the set designer’s artistic inspiration, including works by Piero della Francesca and Fra Angelico. Though the play is never named, the set design, the set, the costumes and the referenced Nativity scenes hung on the wall provide clues. The book references aspects of the theater that it doesn’t mention in words. For example, it makes a nice distinction between street clothes and costumes both in showing Mary in her pink bathrobe and slippers in her dressing room, as well as in costume on stage, and also by showing the backs of the audience members’ heads in the photograph of the performance. With all the attention to detail, including mention of the little-known role of the dramaturge, it’s odd that the book omits any reference to props or the prop master. Concessions are mentioned but not the box office, and the house manager is missing as well.
Detailed and engaging but not quite complete.