note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Beverly Creasey
If you haven't felt the holiday spirit yet, you need only visit the Turtle Lane Playhouse for their holiday production of "Scrooge, The Musical."
Even before "Scrooge" starts, characters in Victorian garb offer the audience toasted chestnuts just like the nuts Bob Cratchit buys for his meager Christmas dinner. (And I might add, being a chestnut addict, that the TLP nuts were roasted perfectly so the meat tasted pungent and sweet...but this isn't a food review so I'll desist.)
"Scrooge, The Musical" by Leslie Bricusse follows the Dickens story closely, except for the "Don Giovanni" ending which gives the old boy a taste of the afterlife. Then the reclamation and requisite benediction("God bless us..."etc) are restored to the story.
Michael Kreutz is a Scrooge so irredeemable that he ruins a puppet show, threatening to confiscate Punch & Judy. ...Now, that's mean! Precisely because he is so mean, when he's redeemed it's a glorious transformation. Kreutz is a joyous convert, reminiscent of a gleeful Alistair Sim in my favorite film of "Christmas Carol."
Kreutz is aided and abetted by Director Paul Farwell as an especially frightened Marley --- a personage so intense, so riveting you were delighted when he returned in this new ending. Farwell directs "Scrooge" with a light, breezy touch, whisking the musical to conclusion in just a little over two hours; remarkable when you consider that Scrooge alone has half a dozen songs.
The actors cavort in Victorian splendour supplied by Richard Itczak, with charming period choreography (The Fezziwigs dance a boisterous reel) by Patricia Strauss. Mr. Pringle's toy shop even comes to life with a mini-ballet performed by the elegant Amberlyn Beninali.
What a showman that Dickens was, writing so many marvelous characters into his story....and TLP offers a production with oodles of shining cameos: from Michael Monte's generous business-man to Jom Jordan's jolly Mr. Pringle, from Jean Liuzzi's good-hearted and giddy Mrs. Fezziwig, from Gisele Ganz' sparkling Ghost of Christmas Past, from Erika Dyer's glowing performance as Scrooge's niece, to Leah Rosenzweig's portrayal of Scrooge's sister......from James Tallach's performance as Bob Cratchit to Alex Miller's kind nephew.. (My Only reservation is that double-casting Miller as Young Scrooge without changing his distinctive wig is too confusing. Lose the wig and it will work.
The youngsters who comprise Christmas Present give astonishing performances. (These roles are played by two different casts.) Apologies for leaving out some names. Everyone made his or her part real, and Meri-Lee Mafera coaxed some fine singing from the ensemble, especially in counterpoint Christmas carolling.
Dickens hoped his "little book" would "pleasantly" haunt us. That it does, and thanks to Kreutz and company, it warms our hearts....and it's not even Thanksgiving yet.