Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Scrooge, The Musical"

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entire contents copyright 2002 by Tony Annicone

"Scrooge, The Musical"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The Mansfield Music & Arts Society current show at the Orpheum Regional Arts Center is an adaptation of the Dickens holiday classic "A Christmas Carol" called "Scrooge, The Musical". This show is based on the 1970 movie version which starred Albert Finney in the title role. From the opening strains of "Christmas Carol" to the the closing, "Thank You Very Much", co-directors Ken Butler and Kelly Crawford lead a cast of 37 in this outstanding musical production which contains just the right amount of humor and pathos to bring the audience into this joyous holiday season. The ingenious moveable sets and the gorgeous costumes combined with musical direction by Judee Bottomley and choreography by Pam Shapiro, makes it the Dickens show to be sure to see this year.

Heading this huge cast as Scrooge is Gary Poholek. This actor is only in his thirties but he plays this 60 year old skinflint with ease by creating the perfect vocal delivery of an elderly man. Gary who is a graduate of Boston Conservatory, delivers the goods in his musical numbers, too. His "I Hate People" is hilarious while "A Better Life" and "I'll Begin Again" show the dramatic transition in this character. Gary's touching duet "You...You" with Kevin Mischley as young man Scrooge is beautifully sung by both men after they realize the error they made in losing their true love, Isabel. This show ends with a Santa clad, Ebenezer Scrooge finally celebrating Christmas with a joyous and giving heart, showing he learned the true meaning of the day from the visiting spirits. Gary handles this enormous role beautifully with all the right moves.

The four ghosts are played by Jeff Swaebe,(Marley) Chava Knowles,(Past) Christopher DiOrio(Present) and Chris Newton(Future).Jeff frightens Scrooge with his first entrance while warning him of what is yet to come. In this version Marley has an additional scene where he welcomes Scrooge to hell. (The lighting is a bright red which turns into a deep blue when he's placed in the deep freeze being punished with a gigantic chain making him unable to move from his desk.) A very funny scene! Chava handles the viewing of the past while dressed as a bride with white lights on her veil to create the halo effect. She teaches Ebby what Chrsitmas should mean to him. Christopher displays his fantastic tenor voice in the "I Like Life" song which becomes the final chorus number of Act 1. He also plays this jolly ghost with wonderful delivery of some humorous one liners. The last ghost is the most terrifying of all and the very tall Chris Newton scares one and all. (The best special effects are in this scene where Scrooge's gravestone pops out of the stage and the lettering of his name bursts into flames while the other effects are all the sliding sets during the show working as if run by computerized precision with the saddest one being Tiny Tim's grave with a weeping Bob Cratchit on it.)

A dynamic and terrific performance is given by Jeff Mahoney as Tom Jenkins who owes money to the miser. Jeff leads the urchins in "Father Christmas" where they mock Scrooge who is nothing like the kindly Christmas person while Scrooge sings I Hate People" in counterpoint with this number. Jeff also leads the joyous celebration of Scrooge's death in "Thank You Very Much" where he tears up all of the IOU's and everyone chorus member does an energetic dance on Scrooge's coffin. He not only has a great voice but he dances up a storm in this scene doing a gleeful jig. Other standout performers include real life husband and wife, Kevin and Jennifer Mischley who play dual roles in this show. They have a lovely duet called "Happiness" which they sing as Ebenezer and Isabel and later they lead a nonsense song with the chorus called "The Minister's Cat" as the nephew and his wife. The breakup scene is handled very well in the first act as is the hilarity of the party scene in the second. Kevin and Jennifer not only prove their strength in acting but show off their excellent baritone and soprano sininging voices, too.

Not only does Ken Butler co-direct this massive show but he also plays Bob Cratchit. (The direction of this show is tested by how well the sentiments come across to the audience and both Ken and Kelly make sure they come shining thru.) Ken does all his scenes well but my favorite is the graveyard scene where he brings the audience to tears with his portrayal of this heartbroken father. The family scene at the end of the scene is a good contrast with this former scene showing the merriment of this poor family at long last. One of the strongest links in this show is Kelly Newton, the first grade girl who plays Tiny Tim. She has a fabulous singing voice which is displayed in a song called "The Beautiful Day" where the crippled child longs to run and play with all the other children. After her rendition of this song, there won't be a dry eye in the house. Brava!

A word of praise to musical director, Judee and the harmonies in the choral number especially the opening, "I like Life", "You...You" and the finale with praise going to choreographer, Pam for the dances especially the Fezziwig dance and the "Thank You Very Much" energetic romp around the stage and on the coffin. Ken Butler did the set design and the costumes are rented from Turtle Lane Playhouse. Since their are too many cast members to list other individuals, suffice it to say, the talents of the entire cast are what makes any show successful.

So for a very enjoyable evening of topnotch theatrical entertainment be sure to catch, "Scrooge" at the Orpheum Theatre which is celebrating its 75th anniversary in January. This theatre is a hidden gem in Foxboro, so for this show and many others let's help it not be hidden any longer.

"Scrooge, The Musical" (13 - 22 December)
1 School Street, FOXBORO MA
1 (508) 543-2787

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