Theatre Mirror Reviews - "A Christmas Carol:The Musical"

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entire contents copyright 2005 by Tony Annicone

"AChristmas Carol, The Musical"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The first show of Academy Players 50th season is "A Christmas Carol, The Musical" adapted by Stephen DeCesare from the Dickens novel. Stephen wrote the music, lyrics and libretto for this version. His original music is the heart and soul of this show. He writes an array of different musical numbers which sound like songs from "Evita", "Les Miz", "Jekyll & Hyde" and "Oliver" as well as beautiful ballads and upbeat numbers including a calypso style one. Stephen musically directed the show as well as plays the keyboard for it, too. The director of the show is Elena Sloop and the choreographer is Melody Gamba who creates some inventive, topnotch dance numbers for the show. The 36 cast members play many roles in the show, entertaining audiences of all ages.

The two story set was built by Pete Mali and his crew and the multitude of gorgeous costumes were obtained by Jackie Granja. The seamstress for the costumes was Heather Tingle and one of her helpers is Jackie's husband, Steven who returns to the stage after an absence of many years to dance in one of the group numbers. The tech director and lighting designer was Dennis Pouliot and the sound engineer was Ben Scheff with sound effects by David Larocque and the props by Barbara Green. The technical aspects by these hardworking people helped create the proper atmosphere for this show set in 1843. Some folks from New York were so impressed by the score of the show that they are looking to bring it to Broadway. Bravo.

The role of Scrooge is played by Donald Cornell whose magnificent baritone voice fills the theater on his three solo numbers called "Am I My Brother's Keeper" where he throws the two solicitors out of his office, "Scrooge's Final Plea" where he begs the graveyard specters to be saved from his cruel fate and "It's Starting to Feel Like Christmas" reprise where he reforms his ways to celebrate Christmas from now on, learning from the spirits as he witnesses the past, present and future. Scott Morency plays Jacob Marley's ghost and gets to sing a vaudeville type number, "Eternity in Chains". His awesome tenor voice soars in this number as the dancing ghouls prance around him scaring the crowd. Scott also plays Old Joe and gets to sing the best number in the show called "Dancing On Your Grave" which sounds like "Reviewing the Situation" from "Oliver". The number stops the show with five dancers doing a fantastic dance with shovels. Melody's excellent coordination of the dance steps comes shining through and is outstandingly performed by Rick Casey, Rebecca Rosenberg, Kim Kalunian, Michael Marchak and Christine Romanello. Rebecca shines as the ghost of the past as she leads Scrooge through his past misadventures and she also handles the Charwoman in the second act with ease. Paul Mancini does double duty in this show as Christmas Present while walking around on stilts and as Mr. Fezziwig. His jolly presence as both characters helps to show Scrooge the error of his ways. Paul leads the chorus in an upbeat song called "It's Christmas Once Again" and gets to sing a comic duet with Christine as Mrs. Fezziwig called "Remember When?" about how things went wrong while they were courting. Two outstanding performances in this show are by two 16 year olds, Kim Kalunian and Michael Marchak as Belle and Young Man Scrooge. Their acting talents shine through everytime they appear on stage, proving how well seasoned they are at a young age. Kim's gorgeous soprano voice soars off the charts in "Til The End of Time" with Michael singing in counterpoint harmony. Her other number is the poignant, "We Must Say Goodbye" where she breaks her engagement with Scrooge, leaving the audience in tears with its pathos. (The song sounds like "On My Own" from Les Miz.) Michael's transition from loving suitor to greedy businessman is handled with ease. 9 year old Dane Granja plays little boy Scrooge, gets to sing "Robinson Crusoe" and also plays Ignorance in the second act. Last year he played Tiny Tim but grew too tall to reprise it this year. Michael Browning plays Boy Scrooge, gets to sing the lovely duet with Michaela Richards as Fan, his sister, called "Christmas Is''.

Thomas Desjarlais reprises his role as Bob Cratchitt, getting to sing the calypso number called "It's Beginning to Feel Like Christmas" with the chorus and the tearjerking "All Through The Night" after Tiny Tim dies. (Tiny Tim is played by Grace Romanello and Dominique DeSimone at alternative shows.) Rick Casey plays Fred, Scrooge's jolly nephew who wants to spread cheer to his uncle at Christmas time and he does a great job with the closing narration of the show. A topnotch chorus number at the start of the show is called "Scrooge" sounds like "Murder, Murder" from ''Jekyll and Hyde''. The close of the show is sung by Scrooge and the chorus with "God Bless Us Everyone" sung earlier in the show by Tiny Tim and his family. So for a very enjoyable evening of original musical entertainment, be sure to catch Stephen DeCesare's version of this show.

"A Christmas Carol: The Musical" (10 - 18 December)
Odeum Theatre, 59 Main Street, EAST GREENWICH RI
1 (401)885-6910

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide