The Santaland Diaries

The Santaland Diaries

Stage A good storyteller makes you feel like you’re the only person in the audience. A good actor makes you feel like there is no audience. One-man shows—especially adaptations from personal stories—stand on a tricky, razor-thin line between the two. Such is the case in Staunton with the American Shakespeare Center’s production of The Santaland Diaries at Blackfriars Playhouse. It’s David Sedaris’ hilarious, true-life story about his years as a Macy’s Christmas elf.

Crumpet, a "low-key sort of elf," is brought to life by Paul Fidalgo in David Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries.

Paul Fidalgo, who plays Crumpet, nails some moments. When he imitates a head elf leading a boisterous cheer of “S-A-N-T-A,” you’ll want your own pointy shoes. When he tells a little boy that Santa will steal the kid’s TV if he isn’t good, you’ll laugh out loud. And when he, à la Kermit the Frog, sings “Away in a Manger,” you’ll fall out of your seat. But at a December 5 preview performance, Fidalgo seemed unsure when to be a storyteller and when to be an actor. As a result, he waffles and leaves a lot of good jokes on the table.

This isn’t the first time that Blackfriars has staged The Santaland Diaries, and it is a good thing that the story is becoming a holiday tradition. Anyone who has witnessed crying, tired, hungry children having their picture taken with Santa will tear with laughter from Sedaris’ wit and cynicism.

But It’s a Wonderful Life this is not. In fact, the worst part of the script is the forced, true-spirit-of-Christmas ending: Joe Mantello, who adapted the story for the stage, tries too hard to turn Christmas coal into a diamond. The best parts of the script are the irreverent, honest, foul, and ridiculous vignettes on store policies, outrageous characters and rampant selfishness.

Hitch a sleigh for The Santaland Diaries at Staunton’s Blackfriars Playhouse during December, and make sure to arrive early for John Harrell’s pre-show. Harrell played Crumpet in 2004 and 2005 and starts each night around 7:15pm with a few entertaining songs on an acoustic guitar. Far from filler, his playing and voice are deserving of a longer set.

Posted In:     News

Previous Post

Red Dirt Alert!

Next Post

The Best American Comics 2006

Our comments system is designed to foster a lively debate of ideas, offer a forum for the exchange of ad hoc information, and solicit honest, respectful feedback about the work we do. We’re glad you’re participating. Here are a few simple rules to follow, which should be relatively straightforward.

1) Don’t call people names or accuse them of things you cannot support.
2) Don’t direct foul language, racial slurs, or offensive terms at other commenters or our staff.
3) Don’t use the discussion on our site for commercial (or shameless personal) promotion.

We reserve the right to remove posts and ban commenters who violate any of the rules listed above, or the spirit of the discussion. We’re trying to create a safe space for a wide range of people to express themselves, and we believe that goal can only be achieved through thoughtful, sensitive editorial control.

If you have questions or comments about our policies or about a specific post, please send an e-mail to

Leave a Reply

Notify of