Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

That Dude in Red, So Familiar

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

That Dude in Red, So Familiar

Article excerpt

This was live theater, with young actors making their debut.

If public relations folks had been in the seats, they would have been stressed, fearing no yuletide cheers in the Herald-Tribune's Sunday Arts section.

Untested script.

Young actors struggling with stage left.

And Jay Handelman, well-known theater critic, in the back of the room.

The play was adapted from Jan Brett's "The Mitten," the Ukrainian folktale of animals finding a mitten and turning it into a community blanket.

So much could have gone wrong on this Opening Morning.

And yet, what to our wondering eyes should appear ...

... Is that Jay smiling?

Jay exudes seriousness, but that's because he's passionate about the arts and recognizes the responsibilities of being a critic.

Yet if there was a possible crack in Jay's professional persona, it didn't need explanation.

Oh, those Selby Kids.

They may not grace the Asolo Repertory or Florida Studio stage, but "The Mitten" cast nailed it.

Applause followed by applause, they had us.

Community Haven is an endearing nonprofit that brings meaning to the lives of people with disabilities. Their preschoolers, aka the Selby Kids, have visited the Herald-Tribune for a holiday event that has drawn standing-room smiles for the past 12 years.

The holiday program starts with a performance from the kids themselves.

Mr. and Mrs. Claus then make their annual appearance.

If the place isn't already lit up with grins, the next act is all smiles and squeals. With help from an energetic elf, Santa hands out gifts one by one.

Some of the children dash quickly to Santa, grab a present and dash back. Others need coaxing, perhaps mesmerized by the roomful of happy noise and the mystery behind the dude in the red suit.

One child hesitated when introduced to a gift bag bedecked in Disney's "Frozen" wrappings.

Santa reacted with his kindest Idina Menzel. …

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