note: entire contents copyright 2010 by Sheila Barth
For years, a special joy of the holiday season has been North Shore Music Theatre’s (NSMT) spectacular production of Charles Dickens’ beloved ghost story, “A Christmas Carol”. When the theater was shuttered after financial problems and its disastrous decision to replace the show, (which for many families had become a Christmas tradition), with the summery “High School Musical II,” audiences throughout New England revolted.
Thanks to owner Bill Hanney and crew, they’re delighting audiences again with former NSMT artistic director/executive producer Jon Kimbell’s superlative Christmas confection, and Kimbell is directing it, thus ensuring its overwhelming success.
Besides its new barrage of extravagant sight, sound and stage effects, NSMT has returned most of its original cast, which audiences are welcoming back with open arms - Texan thespian David Coffee, who adds zest, a twinkle of comedy and humanity as skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge; North Shore’s talented Cheryl McMahon, who works magic with Coffee as his addled housekeeper, Mrs. Dilber and as jolly Mrs. Fezziwig; Stoneham’s Maureen Brennan, who charmingly reprises her longtime roles as the ethereal Ghost of Christmas Past and Bob Cratchit’s wife.
For 10 years, Tom Staggs has illuminated the theater-in-the-round as the formidable Ghost of Jacob Marley, whose glowing, ghastly green presence, chain rattling, flights through space, and resounding moans are terrifying.
Another NSMT favorite, J.T. Turner, adds ebullience as Scrooge’s jolly employer, Mr. Fezziwig and as a gentleman.
New to the show is McMahon’s pretty, talented daughter, Bonnie Fraser, whose soprano voice and gentility in her dual roles as Scrooge’s fiancee, Belle, and his nephew Fred’s pretty bride, Meg, is laudable. Brian De Lorenzo as Cratchit and Brendan Powers as Fred are outstanding. In fact, the entire cast is praiseworthy.
While traditional “Carol” theatergoers missed talented George Dvorsky as the booming, larger-than-life, Ghost of Christmas Present and as a gentleman, he is replaced by Josh Tower, who adds his own spritzle of seasonal joy. Dvorsky is currently touring with another show.
Ryan Bates as the narrator captivates the audience, appearing ubiquitously among and nearby, while little Zehava Younger of Beverly as Scrooge’s kindly younger sister, Fan, is touching.
It’s also a joy to see young, local thespians interacting with these music theater giants: Alex Newell, 18, and D.J. Plunkett, 17, of Lynn; and 9-year-old Revere resident, Brandon Cavallo Barbosa.
Here’s a secret for you - a local, behind-the-scenes standout, stage mechanics operator Michel Moskal of Winthrop, moves the stage and lifts - 55 times - with precise timing during sensational scenes. Moskal is the father of Boston Conservatory student-actress Stephanie Moskal, who delighted audiences as Amber von Tussle in “Hairspray” at Reagle Theatre .
NSMT’s production of “A Christmas Carol,” with its barrage of fiery pyrotechnics; sound designer James R. McCartney’s bells and whistles, thunderclaps, explosions, clanging chimes and timepiece bongs; designer Jack Mehler’s dramatic lighting; and Nancy Leary’s resplendent costumes, is the nonpareil of all Christmas Carols.
Music director Mark Hartman and company create melodic surround-sound, while scattered above the stage, in the pit, and on several raised platforms within the audience; and choreographer John MacInnis’ traditional waltzes, reels and street pearlies’ tumbling acrobatics are lively.
Hanney, Kimbell and Co. have raised the bar in restoring a much-beloved family classic, and this production surpasses its own former level of excellence.
BOX INFO: Two-act musical play, written by Charles Dickens, adapted, directed by Jon Kimbell,; appearing through Dec. 23, at North Shore Music Theatre, 62 Dunham Road, Beverly. Cast includes Lynn residents Alex Newell, 18, and D.J. Plunkett, 17, and Revere’s Brandon Cavallo Barbosa, 9. Performances are Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2,8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Dec. 21,22, at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 23 at 2,7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35-$65. Call 978-232-7200 or visit www.nsmt.org or the Box Office.