note: entire contents copyright 2012 by Sheila Barth
It seems I say this every year:
North Shore Music Theatre’s (NSMT) beloved classic holiday production of musical ghost story, “A Christmas Carol,” has superseded itself - again. Jon Kimbell’s musical-dramatic adaptation of Charles Dickens’ tale of 19th century, London skinflint, Ebenezer Scrooge, and his spiritual awakening and redemption towards Christmas and his fellow man, is, by far, the season’s nonpareil version.
A huge slice of that magic in this 29-strong cast lies with Arlington, Texas star, David Coffee, who has flawlessly performed the role of Scrooge for 18 years, but freshens it with his grudging/gleeful metamorphosis. Furthermore, audiences delight in the interaction and repartee between Coffee and his multi-year sidekick, Marblehead veteran actress Cheryl McMahon, in her three roles: as Scrooge’s housekeeper, Mrs. Dilber; his former employee’s merry wife, Mrs. Fezziwig; and a flagrant house thief during ghostly visitations.
Like Coffee’s enthusiastic welcome, handsome Broadway star George Dvorsky’s stage entrance was greeted with veteran NSMT theatergoers’ applause. He’s reprising his longtime roles as jolly, larger-than-life Ghost of Christmas Present on stilts and a Christmas gentleman seeking donations for the poor, along with returning star J.T. Turner, in dual roles as jolly Mr. Fezziwig and the second donation-seeking gentleman. Theatergoers who faithfully have seen the show since its inception in 1989, have made it a not-to-be-missed family tradition, and aren’t disappointed. They exit happily, enchanted by its ever-changing, mind-boggling, eye-popping, pyrotechnical, dazzlingly flashy stage effects; Paula Peasley-Ninestein’s luxuriously coordinated costumes; and returning Music Director Mark Hartman, leading his marvelous musicians scattered on above-stage platforms, intermingled with theatergoers, and near the stage, creating an impressive surround-sound.
Besides providing accompaniment to original music, traditional carols, wassails, and holiday airs, these costumed musicians enhance Jack Mehler and Leon Rothenberg’s supernatural, dramatic lighting and sound effects, striking little boys with awe while little girls bury their heads in their dads’ shoulders. And Billy Sprague Jr.’s sprightly choreography of acrobatic paranormal/pearlies Nathaniel Braga and Joshua Keith, along with the ensemble’s jigs, reels, and waltzes is charming.
The air bristles with enchantment, expectation, and excitement throughout the production, as the ghastly, chain-laden, phosphorescent, flying spirit of Scrooge’s partner, Jacob Marley, (Matt Allen) returns on the seventh anniversary of his Christmas Eve death to save Scrooge from his netherworldly fate.
Opera-trained, award-winning Boston star Leigh Barrett is marvelously angelic in her second-year return as white-and-gold, ethereal Ghost of Christmas Past, leading Scrooge to milestones in his past. Barrett also adds motherly love and humanity as the wife of Scrooge’s poorly-paid clerk, Bob Cratchit.
Casting romantic magic with their lovely voices are Patrick Ryan as Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, and Stephanie Granade as his lovely bride, Meg; and Kevin Patrick Martin as young Scrooge, with Marlana Dunn portraying his dismayed fiancee,‘ Belle.
Others flawlessly reprising their roles under Artistic Director-Director Arianna Knapp are Martin, doubling as the eerily silent, shrouded Ghost of Christmas Future; Ryan Bates, as the ubiquitous narrator, whose voice resonates while relating his story; and Russell Garrett as kindly Bob Cratchit.
Leading the cadre of talented children is 8-year-old Lowell shining star Sophia Joan Wulsin as Tiny Tim. Don’t miss this superlative production. It may become your Christmas tradition, too!
BOX INFO: Two-act, holiday musical, featuring David Coffee, appearing to Dec. 23 at North Shore Music Theatre, 62 Dunham Road, Beverly. Performances: Dec. 21, at 7:30 p.m.; Dec.,22,23, at 2,7:30 p.m. Donated, unwrapped toys for children ages 2-12 are collected for Tiny Tim’s Toy Drive for Toys for Tots. Tickets:$45-$60. Call 978-232-7200 or visit nsmt.org.