Theatre Mirror Reviews - "A Christmas Carol"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


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entire contents copyright 2009 by Tony Annicone

"A Christmas Carol"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Granite Theatre's holiday show this year is the musical version of "A Christmas Carol". Director David Jepson leads his 17 member cast in a musical version of this classic tale with deft musical direction and accompaniment by Fred Frabotta. The character of Jacob Marley is the narrator and he shows the audience how Scrooge's life changes by his acceptance of the past, present and future. Using a mixture of holiday music performed by a talented cast with gorgeous costumes and easily moved set pieces, this holiday tale delights the audience from start to finish.

Frank Pendola stars as the miser who has his heart of stone turned into a heart of gold. He is a strong actor who convinces the audience that he is an awful skinflint in his coin song near the start of the show but it is his transition scene where he breaks down and cries to repent his past misdeeds is where he really shines at his grave, singing a touching song about being lonely. Frank can show joyous rapture at Fezziwig's party, drinking from the cup of kindness and the redemption scene creating a wonderful rendition of this role while doing so. A powerful performance is given by Arthur Pignataro who plays Jacob Marley. He has a wonderful baritone voice which soars in his song about the chains he wears (this same song is used to close the first act and is sung by the chorus who menace Scrooge with it.) Arthur's acting matches his singing with an impressive and fright filled portrayal of this ghostly specter who scares the crap out of Scrooge and the audience.. Greg Bliven plays Old Joe where he, Mrs. Dilber and Harry, the gravedigger steal the show with a song and dance about being despicable characters by stealing a dead man's belongings. ( The show opens with Harry and another gravedigger singing this song while doing a soft shoe with shovels while doing so. Nicholas Mikkelsen not only plays the dancing gravedigger but Almsman 2 and Dick Wilkins, too.) Mary Sue Chiaradio steals many a scene with her comic portrayals of Mrs. Dilber, Fezziwig and Fred's party guest while wearing a very loud plaid skirt as the latter character. Her husband Michael plays the sinister Harry, the fun loving Topper and the dour Almsman 1. He shows off his dancing skills throughout the show.

The three ghosts in this show excel in their roles, too. The past ghost is played by Rochelle Weinrach who has a lovely soprano voice which she uses in her song about the memories of the past. She shows Scrooge the error of his ways with a British accent and strong delivery of her lines. Rochelle also plays Fred's wife in another scene. Brain Olsen is dynamic as Scrooge's nephew, Fred who loves Christmas and Scrooge punishes him in the first scene by hanging a wreath around his neck which is a hoot.The present ghost is wonderfully played by Geoff Leatham who towers over everyone. He belts out his number about having good will towards men. Geoff and Mary Sue play the Fezziwigs who dance up a storm in the past segment. The final ghost of the future makes a terrifying entrance and is beautifully played by Nicholas dressed all in black with a long finger pointing to each moment of the future and finally to Scrooge's grave.

John Cillino and Claire Leatham play Bob and Mrs. Cratchit. Both of them usually play comic roles but they show their dramatic side in this version in the death of Tiny Tim sequence which brings tears to your eyes at its poignancy. John also plays the singing and dancing Will Jenkins who dances on Scrooge's coffin with the cast while they sing "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" for having kicked off which is a hilarious sequence. Frank sings a verse of the song not knowing what he's singing about. Ryan Murphy plays Tiny Tim who is adored by the audience and Max Leatham, Michaela Pendola and Kelsey Clough play Peter, Belinda and Martha. They have a song about celebrating Christmas as a family, making a powerful statement to the miser on what the holiday is all about.Ryan shows off his strong singing voice and acting skills at a young age. Michaela also plays Fan while Kelsey plays Belle while Patrick Wall portrays Young Scrooge. (Bobby Gestrich and Dominque Rose DeSimone play Boy Scrooge/Tiny Tim and Fan/Belinda at alternating performances.) The family shows the warmth needed to help convert not only Scrooge in the show but all the people who forget what this season is really all about.

A word of praise to David Jepson who also designed his easily moved sets, Beth for all the gorgeous costumes and her hard work as the stage manager who keeps things running smoothly all night long. Tai Scavetta runs the lights and sound with around 120 lighting cues! Choreographer Lisa Clough makes the performers look good in all the dance numbers especially the opening soft show by Michael and Nicholas, the Fezziwig dance,the Will Jenkins segment and the Old Joe dance. So for an enjoyable rendition of this old tale be sure to catch "A Christmas Carol" at the Granite Theatre. Happy Holidays! Their 10th season opens in March with "On Golden Pond".

"A Christmas Carol" (4 - 20 December)
@ 1 Granite Street, WESTERLY RI
1 (401)596-2341

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide