Theatre Mirror Reviews - "A Christmas Carol"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2010 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 Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", a musical ghost story. Jon Kimball former NSMT Artistic director, brings his version of the Dickens classic back to NSMT which he adapted back in 1989. Jon is the director and writer of this version and says "A Christmas Carol" is a timeless story that resonates with people of all ages and carries a message that is just as genuine and poignant now as it was when it first premiered. The musical adaptation captures the true spirit and meaning of the holiday season. It will be wonderful to see generations of families coming together once again to experience such a heart warming holiday tradition. This show returns in triumph with David Coffee recreating his role of Ebenezer Scrooge for the 17th time. "A Christmas Carol" tells the well-known tale of the 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 with Scrooge as he sets off on a strange and magical journey and ultimately discovers the true spirit of the holiday season. The special effects are dynamite as are the terrific musical numbers and the show is welcomed back by a very appreciative audience who leaps to their feet at the curtain call..

Bravo to Bill Hanney for bringing back this splendid yearly tradition once again. He and artistic director Evans Haile have done a marvelous job with their first season at NSMT. The novel written in 1843 is as relevant today as it was back then. Jon created the theater's adaptation with David Zoffoli and David James. As soon as you enter the theatre, you take a step back into the 19th century. The show features original music and arrangements by Alby Potts and James Woodland with original and adapted lyrics by Jon and he also does a marvelous job directing this show. He keeps the action of the show in constant motion, having the performers enter and exit thru the audience. Jon mixes the comic and dramatic moments together perfectly, obtaining many laughs and some tears on the journey of Scrooge's tale. Musical director Mark Hartman conducts a 10 piece orchestra and taught the cast these lovely songs while choreographer John MacInnis creates some period dances for this talented cast which they all execute perfectly. David Coffee has played this role many times since high school days. He is the quintessential Scrooge and delivers a tour-de-force performance as this miser. David has many comic moments including yelling at Fred, Cratchitt, the almsmen and the carolers to shut up as they are singing but it is in Fan's death, the break up with Belle, the transformation scene and the death of Tiny Tim that the pathos comes pouring across the footlights, leaving the audience in tears. You see how he learns from the past, present and future on how to become a better man. His joyous behavior is wonderful to behold. David is the definitive Scrooge. Bravo!

The Narrator of the show is played by Ryan Bates who does a terrific job in this role. A surprise revelation at the close of the show will bring you to tears. An added attraction in this version of the show is two acrobatic fabulous dancers called Pearlies who throw magical dust on the characters to bring them into the spirit of Christmas. They are omnipresent during the show dancing up a storm. These two dynamic dancers are Callan Bergman and Curtis Schroeger.Tom Staggs as Jacob Marley frightens the crowd with his entrance in chains and flies into the theater scaring the audience beautifully. He delivers many of his lines while flying over the heads of the audience. The three ghosts are excellently played in this version. I Arise from Dreams of Yours sung beautifully by Maureen Brennan as Christmas Past. She is a pretty red head with a gorgeous soprano voice. She chides Scrooge as he watches his younger self loving Christmas as a boy with his sister, Fan and at Fezziwig's party when he fell in love with Belle. DJ Plunkett does a wonderful job as Boy Scrooge in this scene as does Zehava Younger as Fan.(She plays Want and Joseph Hall is Ignorance.) Belle is played with warmth by Bonnie Fraser, the real life daughter of Cheryl McMahon. She and Kevin Martin do an excellent dance in this scene and their break up scene is very poignant, too. Christmas Present is Josh Tower who wears platform shoes under his robe so he towers over everyone. He stops the show with his strong tenor voice in "The Boars Head Carol" and again in "The Gloucestershire Wassail" King of Bliss number Kevin Patrick Martin who I first reviewed as a 12 year old back in 1999, plays Christmas Future as well as Young Scrooge. He has grown into a dynamic actor playing these two roles and has a touching scene with Belle. As Christmas Future there is a stunning scene where he climbs on top of Scrooge's grave with splendid pyrotechnics going off to expose Scrooge's name on the stone. His robe comes off and you see Young Scrooge standing there to let Ebenezer know who the grave is for. The hilarious Cheryl McMahon plays Mrs. Dilber who is Scrooge's housekeeper. She is a hoot in this role. Some of her funny moments include being frightened of the noises in the house and at the end of the play she holds a crucifix up as she enters his bedroom. Cheryl is hilarious as she delivers her wares to Old Joe in the counting house scene. Cheryl also plays Mrs. Fezziwig and stops the show with J.T. Turner as Mr. Fezziwig with their jubilant song and dance number to "Here We Come a Wassailing".

Fred is marvelously played by Brendan Powers who captures the happy spirit of Christmas time in this role. He has a terrific tenor voice while Bonnie also plays his wife, Meg shows off her gorgeous soprano voice with him in "Tomorrow Will Be My Dancing Day".The performers who play the family members do a great job, too. Brian DeLorenzo is Bob Cratchitt. He is funny in the scenes with Scrooge at the start of the show and the first family scene and touching in the death of Tiny Tim sequence. Maureen Brennan also plays Mrs. Cratchitt where she gets to show off her dramatic acting talent and her gorgeous voice again in "The Little Child" after Tim's death. Brandon Cavallo Barbosa tugs at your heartstrings as Tiny Tim. He gets to show off his strong voice in "I Saw Three Ships". Rachel Rikeman is Martha, Bryan Marden is Peter and Maggie Budzyna is Belinda. Another comic scene in the future segment is when Old Joe played beautifully by recent Emerson College graduate Michael Borges doles out the money to Mrs. Dilber and they sing "Isn't It Grand Boys?". I first reviewed him as Billy in "Anything Goes" back in 2006. He is also the poultry store owner who brings the huge turkey to Scrooge after the turkey boys played by Thomas Boucher, Andrew and Maxwell Murdock summon him. So for one of the most splendid versions of this classic show, be sure catch NSMT's "A Christmas Carol'' before it leaves town. It will definitely get you into the Christmas spirit. Tell them Tony sent you. The excellent period costumes are by Nancy Leary and the sets are by Howard Jones

"A Christmas Carol" (3 - 23 December)
@ 62 Dunham Road, BEVERLY MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide