Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge"

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entire contents copyright 2011 by Tony Annicone

"Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Contemporary Theater's holiday production this year is Christopher Durang's playful send-up of traditional "A Christmas Carol". To bring Christmas cheer, Scrooge and the Ghost wind up at Bob Cratchit's house to find a neurotic Mrs. Cratchit lamenting life and motherhood and threatening to jump off the London Bridge. The show is a madcap musical parody of Dickens' classic tale and offers a refreshing playful twist on the beloved holiday tale and a fresh and funny spin on the spoofed to death classic. Director Chris Simpson casts these comic roles very well with his 18 member cast. The whole cast is rewarded with a thunderous ovation at curtain call at their sold out performance.

Since this show isn't well known, I will give a brief synopsis of it. The main character is the hard-drinking, suicidal Gladys Cratchit, whose harshness to her family surpasses Mommy Dearest by a mile. The other 2 leads are The Ghost and Scrooge. The Ghost escorts him throught the past, present and future of his life but things keep going "kaplooey" because her magic is messed up. They try to go to Fezziwig's Christmas party but end up at the Cratchits' home in the present where we meet Gladys and her hungry but cheerful children who live in a bunch in the root cellar. Most of the characters retain their Dickensian flavor. Scrooge is a curmudgeon while Bob is the gentle family man who is the prime target of Ebenezer's cheapness. Tiny Tim is crippled and heart-rending as is Little Nell, another Dickens character. Durang also includes scenes where the Ghost brings him to the lives of Oliver Twist and Leona Helmsley as well as It's A Wonderful Life". the Enron scandal, The Gift of the Magi, Mommy Dearest, and Touched by an Angel. The catchy songs are "It's Nearly Christmas", "Fezziwig Song" and "Yummy Yum Yum" which closes the first act.

Chris gives all his performers their moment to shine in this show. Pianist Miles Martin plays the songs beautifully. Amy Lee Connell shines as Gladys. Her drunken rants and ravings are hysterical as she says over and over that she hears voices. Some of her funniest moments are when she asks Tim if he is blind as well as crippled, calls her daughter Little Nell, oatmeal and hates the pathos of the family. Amy is also a hoot as she swills down drink after drink in the barroom. Scrooge is excellently played by Terry Simpson. He buys into the Enron scheme, cuts Bob's salary in half and makes him slap himself in the face, enjoys going to executions of people and being nasty and mean. Scrooge loves Gladys bad attitude, saying he delights in it. Amelia Giles is dynamic as The Ghost who constantly changes costumes to play all three of them. She has a lovely singing voice and many clever lines, stealing many a scene while doing so especially when she zaps Scrooge with a taser for misbehaving at times and claims he would be diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome in the current day for continually uttering bah humbug. Amelia brings the starving children Happy Meals and Gladys exclaims if they got sick and want to puke they can use the same bags. She also encourages the audience to sing Jingle Bells with her. There is a surprise ending to the show that can't be revealed here.

Kevin Killavey plays the long suffering and stalwart Bob Cratchit. One of his funniest moments is when he sings "Silent Night" at dirge tempo with the children which drives Scrooge balmy. He also receives laughs as he slaps himself in the face and when he brings his 21st child, a foundling into his home. Gladys goes ballistic. Blond hair, blue eyed 11 year old Liam Donnelly tugs at your heartstrings as Tiny Tim with God bless us Everyone. He receives much laughter as he spits out the rancid pudding and other funny antics like not using his crutch and falling 24 times in one day. Other two youngsters who do a bang up job are Matthew Thompson as Young Scrooge and Johnny Donnelly as Young Marley. They have a hilarious opening scene where Matthew keeps saying he hates Christmas and throws popcorn at Johnny and the ghost. Grey Johnson, Shawn Fennell and Christine Cauchon do terrific work in multiple roles playing Marley, Clarence the Angel, The Fezziwigs and many more. Kudos to the whole cast for a topnotch job in this show. I don't want to spoil it for the audience so I don't want to give away anymore of the shows many twists and turns. So for a rip roaring farce that will keep you in stitches all night long, be sure to catch "Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge". Tell them Tony sent you.

"Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge" (15 to 23 December)
@ The Towers, 35 Ocean Road, NARRAGANSETT RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide