Theatre Mirror Reviews - "A Christmas Carol"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2011 by Tony Annicone

"A Christmas Carol"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Bill Hanney's North Shore Music Theatre's holiday presentation this year is Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol'', a musical ghost story. Jon Kimball former NSMT artistic director, brings his version of the Dickens classic back to NSMT once again this year. Jon adapted it back in 1989. The director this year is John MacInnis. "A Christmas Carol" is a timeless tale that resonates with people of all ages and carries a message that is as true today as it was back when Dickens first wrote it. The musical adaptation captures the true spirit and meaning of the holiday season. This show will be presented yearly so families can experience a heart warming holiday tradition. "A Christmas Carol" returns in triumph again in 2011 with David Coffee recreating his role of Ebenezer Scrooge for the 18th time. The show tells the well-known tale of the curmudgeonly miser Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited by the ghosts of Marley, Christmases Past, Present and Yet to Come who hope to change his destiny and save his soul. The audience will travel with him as he sets off on a strange and magical journey to ultimately discover the true meaning of Christmas.The special effects are brilliantly done as are the marvelous musical numbers. The audience leaps to their feet at curtain call at the dynamic, presentation they have just witnessed.

The original novel written in 1843 is as relevant today as it was back then. As soon as you enter the theatre you step back in time to the 19th Century. Jon Kimball created the NSMT version with David Zoffoli and David James. The show features original music and arrangements by Alby Potts and James Woodland with original and adapted lyrics by Jon. John MacInnis who choreographed this show last year, directs as well as choreographs this one featuring a cast of 30 performers. He does a marvelous job directing and blocking the cast, keeping the show in constant motion. The performers enter and exit through the aisles of the theatre. John blends the comic and dramatic moments together splendidly, obtaining many laughs and quite a few tears along the way of Scrooge's journey to redemption. He also creates period dances including minuet, waltzes and so on which the cast executes with perfect precision. John recently was associate choreographer for the 2011 Tony Award winning musical "Book of Mormon". Musical director Mark Hartman returns to NSMT to conduct the topnotch 10 piece orchestra and also taught the gorgeous harmonies of the songs to this talented cast. Most impressive is the brass trio in the "Boar's Head Carol". Leading this 30 member cast as Scrooge is David Coffee who has played this role many times since high school days. He is the quintessential Scrooge. David delivers a tour-de-force performance as this stingy miser. His many comic moments include yelling at Fred, Cratchit, the almsmen as well as the carolers to shut up as they are singing. But it is in Fan's death, the break up with Belle, the death of Tiny Tim and the transformation scenes that the pathos comes pouring across the footlights, leaving the audience in tears at David's gut wrenching performance. The audience observes how Scrooge has become a better man by learning from the past, present and future. His exuberant behavior is magnificent to behold, making David the definitive Scrooge, now and in the future. Bravo!

The narrator of the show is played by Ryan Bates who does a marvelous job in this role. There is a surprising revelation at the end of the show as to who he really is, that will leave you in tears. Ryan shows off his strong singing voices in several of the songs including the poignant "Little Child" song with Mrs. Cratchit. An added attraction in this version is two fantastic acrobatic dancers called Pearlies who throw magical dust on the characters to bring them into the spirit of Christmas. The Pearlies are omnipresent during the show, dancing up a storm while doing so. These two dynamic dancers are Joe Moeller and Jeff Kuhr. Gordon Baird as Jacob Marley scares the crowd with his entrance in chains, flying into the theatre as he frightens both Scrooge and the audience. He delivers many of his lines as he flies over the heads of the crowd, doing a splendid job as this character. The Pearlies manipulate the chains as Marley flies through the air. I last reviewed Gordon in "Singin' in The Rain" at NSMT in 2006. The three ghosts are excellently played in this version. "I Arise from Dreams of Yours" is sung perfectly by Leigh Barrett as Christmas Past. She is a beautiful red head with a gorgeous soprano voice. She chides Scrooge as he watches his younger self loving Christmas as a boy with his sister, Fan and at Fezziwig's party when he fell in love with Belle. Kyle McAdam does a wonderful job as boy Scrooge as does Zehava Younger as Fan. Belle is played with great warmth and charm by Natasha Ashworth. She and Kevin Martin do an excellent dance in this scene. Their break up scene is gut wrenching to witness. Christmas Present is wonderfully played by Timothy John Smith who I last reviewed as Guido in "Nine" at Speakeasy Stage. He wears platform shoes under his robes so that he towers over everyone else while spreading Christmas cheer and teaching Scrooge an important lesson. His tenor voice soars in "The Boars Head Carol" and again in "The Gloucestershire Wassail". Kevin Patrick Martin returns once again to play Christmas Future as well as Young Scrooge. He has grown into a dynamic actor having reviewed him these past 13 years in many productions. Kevin has a very emotion packed scene with Natasha in the break up scene. As Christmas Future, Kevin climbs on top of Scrooge's grave where his robe falls off amid pyrotechnics which reveals Scrooge's name on the stone. He is also revealed as Young Scrooge to show Ebenezer who the grave is really for. He and Patrick Ryan as Dick Wilkins have a comical scene with the Fezziwigs. The splendid and hilarious Cheryl McMahon who returns for her 18th time in this show, plays Mrs. Dilber, Scrooge's housekeeper. She is a hoot in this role as she quails and quakes at the noises in the house and at the end of the show she holds a giant crucifix up when she enters his bedroom. Cheryl is very comical as she delivers her wares to Old Joe in the counting house scene in the Vaudeville type number "Isn't It Grand Boys" which stops the show with the expert dancing in it. She also plays the jolly Mrs.Fezziwig and stops the show with J.T. Turner as Mr. Fezziwig with their jubilant song and dance number, "Here We Come a Wassailing".

Fred is marvelously played by tall, blond and handsome, Andy Jones who captures the happy spirit of the Christmas season in this role.He has a terrific tenor voice which soars off the charts while Beth Stafford Laird plays his wife, Meg. She is a pretty red head and shows off her gorgeous soprano voice with him in "Tomorrow Will Be My Dancing Day''. The Cratchit family members also shine in their roles. Russell Garrett is a delight as Bob Cratchit. He shows how to handle comic moments with Scrooge at the start of the show and in the first family scene. Russell shows his mettle as a dramatic actor in the poignant death of Tiny Tim sequence. I last reviewed Russell as director of "Hairspray" at TBTS this past summer. Leigh Barrett also plays Mrs. Cratchit where she displays her dramatic acting talent and her gorgeous voice again in "The Little Child" after Tim's death. I last reviewed Leigh in "Side by Side by Sondheim" at the New Rep in 2007. Brandon Barbosa as Tiny Tim is only 10 years old and repeats this role from last year's production. He tugs at your heartstrings in this role and displays a strong singing voice in "I Saw Three Ships". Shae Kingston is Martha, Bryan Marden is Peter and Maggie Budzyna is Belinda. (Bryan and Maggie also appeared in these roles in 2010) Another comic scene in the future segment is the Old Joe sequence. This role is played wonderfully by Tommy Labanaris who doles out the money to Mrs. Dilber as they sing "Isn't It Grand Boys?". So one of the most magnificent versions of this well known tale, be sure to catch David Coffee and the talented cast members to get into the holiday spirit before the show leaves town. NSMT's exciting shows next year include "Hello, Dolly", "Annie", "All Shook Up", "9 to 5,the Musical" and "Guys & Dolls".

"A Christmas Carol" (2 - 23 December)
@ 2 Dunham Road,BEVERLY MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide