Theatre Mirror Reviews - "A Christmas Carol, The Musical"

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entire contents copyright 2004 by Tony Annicone

"A Christmas Carol, The Musical"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The first show of Academy Players 49th season is "A Christmas Carol, The Musical" adapted by Stephen DeCesare from Dickens novel. Stephen wrote the music, lyrics and libretto for this version. His original music is the heart and soul of this show. He writes an array of different musical numbers which sound like songs from "Evita", "Les Miz", "Jekyll and Hyde", "Oliver" as well as beautiful ballads and upbeat numbers including a calypso style one. Stephen plays the lead keyboards and musically directed the show, too. Director Scott Morency and his assistant director Elena Sloop do double duty in the show with Scott playing Marley and Elena playing the Charwoman and Fred's wife with choreographer Melody Gamba creating some inventive dance numbers. The 37 member cast sing Stephen's score beautifully, creating a new musical version of this show that people can enjoy at this festive time of the year.

The two story set was built by Pete Mali and his crew and the multitude of costumes were obtained by Jackie Granja with her husband, Steven do any repairs on ripped ones. The lighting direction was by Dennis Pouliot and the sound engineer was Ben Scheff with sound effects by David Larocque and props by Barbara Green. The technical aspects of the show were handle by these hardworking people to make the 37 actors shine in their roles.

The role of Scrooge is played by Carl Desimone whose magnificent baritone voice fills the theater on his two solo numbers called "Am I My Brother's Keeper" where he throws the two solictors out of his office and "Scrooge's Final Plea" where he tells the graveyard spectres he has reformed his ways. You witness his transformation from scene to scene in the past, present and future. The first frightening ghost, Marley's song "Eternity in Chains" sounds like a vaudeville number and is sung fantasically by Scott and his dancing chorus of ghouls. 10 year old Corinne VanFechtmann plays the Ghost of the past. She leads Scrooge on his journey to his past and she handles her enormous amount of dialogue with ease. Paul Mancini plays Christmas Present on stilts, making him at least 9 feet tall. His jolly presence shows Scrooge the error of his ways as he leads the chorus in an upbeat song called "It's Christmas Once Again". (The children give candy canes to audience members during it.) Edward Browning plays the final ghost of the show while showing the old man the reaction of how his death will cause happiness because of his greedy nature. One of the best numbers occurs during this segment in the gravediggers scene with Steven Desjarlais as Old Joe singing "Dancing on Your Grave" which sounds like "Reviewing the Situation" from "Oliver" with 5 dancers doing a fantastic dance with shovels. The coordination of this dance by Melody is outstanding as are Elena Sloop, Rick Casey, Trish St. Laurent, Kimberly Kalunian and Matthew Adams who execute it. Kimberlywho is only 15, also plays Belle and gets to show off her gorgeous soprano voice in "Til The End of Time" which she sings to Young Scrooge after he proposes to her. (She sounds like a young Jeanette MacDonald in this number.) Her other number is "We Must Say Goodbye" where she breaks up with him she realizes he loves money more than her. This one sounds like "On My Own" from "Les Miz". Matthew Adams who is also 15 plays across from Kimberly and he handles his role very well changing from attentive young suitor to greedy businessman. Boy Scrooge is well played by Michael Browning who gets to show off his strong voice in his solo "Robinson Crusoe" and his duet called "Christmas Is" with Emma Galvin who plays his sister, Fan when she comes to bring him home for the holiday.

Two of the funniest characters in this show are Mr. & Mrs. Fezziwig played by Frank Pendola and Tricey Delponte. The Fezziwigs usually just appear for the dance segment and leave but in this version Stephen wrote the pair a funny ballad called "Remember When?" about how things went wrong while they were courting and in the early years of their marriage. Tricey dips Frank back to kiss him which brought gales of laughter from the audience. Frank also gets a chance to sing the Requiem, a serious song at the start of the show as the priest who buries Marly. (It sounds like the "Requiem Eternam" from "Evita".) Steve Michelson brings a lot of humor to the role of Scrooge's nephew, Fred in the opening scene and the party scene with more laughs from Elena as his wife, (she is also a hoot as the sooty constantly whipping her dripping nose on her sleeve, Charwoman) Rick Casey as Topper and Kimberly, Amanda Garcia and Jennifer Adams as the sister while David Larocque, Debbie Woodhill, Chris Maxwell and Joey Nicastro handle several humorous roles, too. Barbara Paolino brings tears to the audience's eyes in her solo "In the Lonely Midnight" which is sung in counterpoint with the chorus singing Silent Night while she is holding a baby in her arms in the miners segment. The most touching scene in the show is the death of Tiny Tim where Thomas Desjarlais as Bob Cratchitt sings "All Through the Night" over his dead son's body. He also sings the lead in the calypso style song called "It's Starting to Feel Like Christmas". Tiny Tim is wonderfully played by 8 year old Dane Granja. His solo called "Holy Child" about the birth of Jesus tugs at your heartstrings as he sings in his clear, strong boy soprano voice. He leads the Cratchitt family in "God Bless Us Everyone". The family members handle the comic and dramatic moments very well with Trish St. Laurent doing a cockney accent as the mother and the other children played by Jenna, Haley and Britt Moen, Adam Schuck and Anna Palmer. Another outstanding chorus number is the "Scrooge" number where they tell how rotten he is to everyone. It sounds like "Murder, Murder" from "Jekyll and Hyde". Kudos to all the other cast members who make this into a wonderful holiday musical. So for an evening of original music to tell this well known tale be sure to catch this version of the show.

"A Christmas Carol, The Musical" (10 - 19 December)
Greenwich Odeum, 59 Main Street, EAST GREENWICH, R I

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide