Theatre Mirror Reviews-"A Christmas Carol"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2015 by Tony Annicone

"A Christmas Carol: A Musical Ghost Story"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Bill Hanney's North Shore Music Theatre's holiday presentation this year is the all time annual favorite Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", a musical ghost story. This version was written by Jon Kimball, the former NSMT Artistic Director, which he adapted back in 1989. Jon explains "A Christmas Carol" is a timeless story that resonates with people of all ages and carries a message that is genuine and poignant now as when it was first premiered. This musical version captures the true spirit and meaning of the holiday season. The show returns for its 25th Annual presentation with David Coffee as Scrooge. Current Artistic Director Kevin Hill handles the direction of this triumphant musical treat this year. "A Christmas Carol" tells the well known tale of curmudgeonly miser Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited by the ghosts of Marley, Christmases Past, Present and Future who hope to change his destiny and save his soul. Audiences will travel back with Scrooge as he sets off on a strange and magical journey ultimately discovering the true spirit of the Christmas season. Kevin and his cast and crew deliver the goods with special effects that are as marvelous as are the splendid musical numbers. This show is welcomed back warmly year after year and once again is an astounding success with the audience leaping to their feet and cheering at the curtain call on a job extremely well done. Bravo!

The special effects are brilliant and spectacular this year. Kevin not only directs this show but supplies the high energy period dances for it, too. His keen eye and strong directorial abilities pour forth in this production. Kevin obtains many laughs and a few tears shed along the way on this magical journey. He makes the show more comic this year and the dancing is stronger than ever! Musical director Milton Granger conducts a ten piece orchestra and taught the cast the lush and beautiful harmonies of these Christmas songs. David Coffee is phenomenal as Scrooge. He mines the layers of this character perfectly from start to finish. David delivers a tour-de-force performance. His comic moments include yelling at his nephew, Fred, his employee, Bob Cratchit, the almsmen as well as the carolers to shut up when they start to sing in his office. However it is in his dramatic moments at Fan's death, the break up with Belle, the transformation sequence and the death of Tiny Tim that he tugs at the heartstrings of every member of the audience bringing them to tears. David definitely makes you aware how Scrooge has learned from the past, present and future on how to become a better man. You couldn't ask for a better actor for this than David Coffee. Bravo on bringing this tale to life year after year and always making it fresh and new as if he was performing it for your eyes only.

Tommy Labanaris returns as the Narrator for his second year. He does a wonderful job as this poignant character. Tommy displays his powerhouse voice in the opening number and especially in the emotionally draining "The Little Child" about Tiny Tim's death. He and Leigh Barrett sing this song together and there's not a dry eye in the house. A surprise revelation at the end of the show will leave you in tears as you discover the secret at last. Two acrobatic dancers, Nathaniel Braga and Brad Trump called the Pearlies help move the story along by spooking Mrs. Dilbur and transporting Scrooge and the other spirits around the stage with their magic dust. Their magic dust puts everyone into the Christmas spirit. They are phenomenal dancers. Freddie Kimmel as Jacob Marley scares the crap out of Scrooge and the entire audience. Marley hovers over the audience waking Scrooge up to the wrong path he's headed down unless he heeds Jacob's warnings. Kevin has Marley exit into hell at the end of his scene ! The pyrotechnics and flying by ZFX are stunning and awesome to behold.

The three ghosts are lead by Leigh Barrett as Christmas Past. It's her fifth year doing this role and she makes it as fresh and new as it if it were her first year. Leigh is a striking red head with a glorious soprano voice in the lovely song "A Dream Within a Dream" with two girls backing her up. She chides Scrooge for his ill treatment of Fred while they watch the scene between Fan and Boy Scrooge and at Fezziwig's party when he used to love Christmas. Scarlet Keene-Connole plays Fan and Jack Favazza plays Boy Scrooge. They do a splendid job in these roles, having oodles of talent at young ages. Andrew Tighe plays Young Scrooge while Lenni Kmiec plays Belle. They shine in the break up scene while Tim McShea plays the best friend, Dick Wilkins. Peter Adams is fabulous as Christmas Present. He uses stilts to tower over everyone. His magnificent tenor voice stops the show with "The Boar's Head Carol" and "The Gloucestershire Carol." Andrew also plays the Ghost of Future who transforms into a statue of Young Scrooge during the transformation scene. He scares Scrooge into repenting the errors of his ways. I last reviewed Andrew as Rolf in "The Sound of Music" at NSMT. The biggest scene stealer in this show is Cheryl McMahon as Mrs. Dilbur. Some of her comic moments include being scared by a blanket flying off the bed, Scrooge's coat hurled at her and holds a crucifix in front of her to ward off the evil spirits. Cheryl also shines as Mrs. Fezziwig doing an energetic polka with J.T.Turner as Fezziwig in the Past segment. She is a superb actress and these two roles are among her best work.

Fred is splendidly played by Bronson Norris Murphy who returns for his third year in this show. He is tall, dark and handsome with a fabulous tenor voice which he displays with lovely brunette, Lianne Gennaco with a fantastic soprano voice in "Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day."  Their voices blend perfectly together. Bronson has comic moments in the opening segment while encouraging the young carolers to bother his uncle and in the present segment when Fred describes his Uncle Scrooge's bad behavior at the Party. The Cracthit family performers shine in their roles, too. Russell Garrett returns for his fourth year as Bob, handling the comic and dramatic moments marvelously. His comic moments occur in the opening scene, the first family scene and when he faints when Scrooge raises his salary in the last scene. Leigh Barrett is also splendid as Mrs. Cratchit and sings the poignant ""The Little Child" after Tim's death. Jake Ryan Flynn steals many a scene as the definitive Tiny Tim. He is only 9 years old and acts like a seasoned veteran. Bravo! Jake knows how to work the crowd obtaining tears from them as well as displaying a strong voice in "I Saw Three Ships" and his "God Bless Us Everyone" is heartfelt and well done, too. Jillian Furber returns as Martha, Cameron Perrin as Peter and Haven Pereira as Belinda display the comedy and pathos needed for these roles. Cameron also delivers the goods with his heartfelt bible passage reading. Another comic role is Old Joe who is well played by Robert Conte. He is especially impressive with his vaudeville number "Isn't It Grand Boys?" with Cheryl as Mrs. Dilbur which stops the show with merriment and hilarity. So for a magnificent rendering of this well known tale, be sure to catch "A Christmas Carol, A Musical Ghost Story" at North Shore Music Theatre before Scrooge and company leave town for good. It will definitely get you into the Christmas spirit. Tell them Tony sent you.

"A Christmas Carol" (4 - 23 December)
@ 62 Dunham Road, BEVERLY MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide