Berkeley Breathed's "Red Ranger Came Calling" gets a satisfying musical staging by Book-It Repertory Theatre.

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PERFORMANCE REVIEW |

What happens when a petulant 9-year-old boy is forced to spend Christmas on Vashon Island with his Aunt Vy? Magic, as presented by Book-It in “Red Ranger Came Calling,” a production that’s as light and airy as cotton candy yet as fulfilling as a turkey dinner.

This musical adaptation of local native Berkeley Breathed’s book, by Myra Platt and Edd Key, has tunes you can actually hum on your way home. The music, a bit like that of Rodgers and Hammerstein with a touch of “Rocky Horror Picture Show” pizazz, is evocative of the late 1930s, when the story takes place. And the cast is well-equipped to deliver the songs and clever dance routines. The finely honed cast, under Platt’s witty direction, takes advantage of all the opportunities for humor, poignancy and wonder. Musical director Key’s joyful band includes everything from euphonium and pump organ to oboe and cornet.

The story concerns a boy obsessed with his radio hero, Buck Tweed, Red Ranger from Mars. All he needs is a flashy red superhero bike to become that hero himself. This boy’s a cynic, yet also a dreamer who harbors the belief he just might get that bike — if he takes a risk. His adventure includes elves, a flying dog, mystical creatures and an encounter with the old-as-Methuselah Saunder Clös.

The actors play with our emotions the way fine violinists extract nuance from their instruments. Ever-patient, giving Aunt Vy (Teresa Holmes) captures the sadness of every parent or surrogate who can’t fulfill a child’s dream. Saunder Clös (played by a mystery actor because, of course, we can’t know Santa’s identity) is a decrepit old man whose occasional bursts of energy electrify the stage. Then there’s Jerick Hoffer as the Red Ranger wannabe. This carrot-topped actor epitomizes the fractious kid we’ve all encountered. Every gesture, expression, whine, snarl and look of wonder works to create a brilliant performance.

“Red Ranger Came Calling” is a funny, affecting treat for young and old. And best of all, it reminds us that a gift itself is not as important as the gift of love that accompanies it.

Nancy Worssam: nworssam@earthlink.net