As the director and producer of “The Littlest Angel,” Anna Smulowitz has been pondering just what Christmas means in the 21st century.
“What really makes us happy?” Smulowitz asked. “Is it another trinket? Or is it something that is just very precious to us that belongs to humankind? It sounds a little soggy, but Christmas seems to allow for that sort of sentimentality.”
Smulowitz adapted the Charles Tazewell short story for the theater with Laila Streiff more than 20 years ago and has brought it back to Newburyport by popular demand. This weekend’s performances at Belleville Congregational Church will mark the fifth time that the musical has been produced here.
“The Littlest Angel” tells the tale of a child who dies and goes to heaven, then must make the transition from being a mere mortal to an angel.
“There are some very moving moments that are very believable,” Smulowitz said. “The longing of this child to go home and his adjusting to heaven and the people welcoming him and loving him, people really feel like it’s the true story of what happened at Christmas. Of the birth of Christ, a child is born, and heaven went crazy over it.”
The show boasts an interfaith double cast of roughly 30 local adults and children, including Woody Woodiel, Jeff Larson, Madeline Sherwood, Steven Berger, Emily Fluet and James Nation. Joey Cates and Jesse Rosenthal share the title role. The original music was written by Michael Yell and Bill Plante Jr., and the choreography was created by Linda Zirin and Deirdre Budzyna.
“I don’t think we can do community theater without community,” Smulowitz said. “That’s why we’re still here for 35 years. The community has always come to the shows. That is what keeps the doors open, if people come out and see them.”