Theatre Mirror Review>"A Christmas Carol --- Hanover">Aida"

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entire contents copyright 2014 by Tony Annicone

"A Christmas Carol"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Hanover Theatre's holiday show this year is the 7th Annual production of "A Christmas Carol" adapted and directed by Troy Siebels. This theatre is breathtakingly gorgeous and is a jewel hidden away in the city of Worcester that needs to be discovered by one and all. He has a cast of 29 this year. The underlying themes of charity, mercy, forbearance and benevolence found in "A Christmas Carol" are universal and are relevant to people of all religions and backgrounds. Troy utilizes a grown up, Tim Cratchit as the narrator of this classic tale of redemption of the miserly curmudgeon, Ebenezer Scrooge. Originally written by Charles Dickens in the winter of 1843, but it still resonates with people one hundred and seventy-one years later. Scrooge is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, hoping to change his destiny and save his soul. This marvelous musical adaptation is chock full of dazzling special effects, timeless music, colorful sets and gorgeous costumes. The show follows Scrooge through his many strange and magical journeys, where he ultimately discovers the true spirit of the holiday season at last. The combination of Troy's, music director Timothy Evans and choreographer Ilyse Robbins hard work creates a magnificent telling of this classic tale. A spontaneous standing ovation is their reward on a job extremely well done. Bravo!

Troy obtains laughter and some tears on Scrooge's journey to redemption by blending the dramatic and comic moments together splendidly. He keeps the action of the show flowing smoothly from one scene to the next an ends the show with the cast singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" as the snow falls on the performers and the audience. Timothy plays a Wurlitzer organ and picked out the prettiest Christmas carols to use in this show. The dances by stop the show with the expert execution of this talented cast, especially in the opening "Deck the Halls", the Fezziwig scene, Fred's party waltz and in "Ding Dong Merrily on High."  The two other dance numbers include "Pattapan" and Wassail" as well as the marvelous opening of Act 2 dance by the men's chorus in "The Boar's Head Carol". The incredible London sets are by James Krozner while the fantastic, gorgeous authentic costumes are by Gail Astrid Buckley. Jeremy Lawrence returns in triumph for his 3rd year as the miserly, curmudgeon and commands the stage in this role. Jeremy excels in the comic moments especially in "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" when he yells at the caroler as well as the two solicitors and shadow boxes his robe but it is in Fan's death, the break-up with Belle, the death of Tiny Tim and in the transformation scenes that the pathos flows out to the audience, leaving them in tears. His exuberance when he awakens alive on Christmas morning is stunning to behold as he dances with joyous rapture. The audience observes how Scrooge has learned from his past, present and future on how to become a better man. Bravo!

Before Marc Geller flies onto the stage as Jacob Marley, long chains drop down from the ceiling clanging on the floor. He scares the entire audience with his magical entrance flying to the top of Scrooge's bed. Marc jangles his chains through as smoke filled haze with  eerie lighting. The amazing flying effects are by a California based company, ZFX inc. The three ghost are terrific in this production. Christmas Past is portrayed for the fourth time by Tori Heinlein. Tori and two young girls do a lovely ballet before Scrooge sees her. She has a beautiful singing voice in her two numbers "The Holly and the Ivy'' and "In the Bleak Midwinter." She chides Scrooge as he watches his younger self enjoying Christmas as a boy with his sister, Fan when she came to take him home and at the Fezziwig party when he fell in love with Belle. Tori's line delivery is very strong as she takes Scrooge on his journey of enlightenment. Young Scrooge is wonderfully played by 13 year old Nicholas Talbot as is six year old Juliana Caputo as little Fan. Brian Hunter as Young Ebenezer delivers the goods in the emotion packed break up scene. Belle is played with great warmth by pretty blonde Lea Nardi. Their break up is gut wrenching to witness as she hands him back her engagement ring. The Fezziwigs are excellently played by Steve Gagliastro and Shonna Cirone. They bring a great deal of levity to the proceedings. Troy's staging of the end of Act 1 tableau with a spot on the Fezziwigs, Fan and Young Scrooge as well as on Belle and Young Ebenezer and Scrooge back in his bed is astounding and the perfect finish to the first half of the show.

Eric Rehm plays Christmas Present who spreads Christmas cheer and teaches Scrooge an important lesson on how to treat his fellow man. The Ghost cajoles him as he shows him the plight of the Cratchit Family and how his nephew Fred is spending Christmas day. Fred is wonderfully played by Andrew Crowe who brings a lot of levity and energy to the part. He is especially funny when he puts more coal in Scrooge's heater and when he kisses him on the head when he leaves. His wife, Millie is beautifully played by gorgeous brunette, Laura DeGiacomo They have clever banter during their party scene. The Ghost of the Future walks on stilts and wears a huge black robe. He scares not only Scrooge but the entire audience, too as he shows him the Old Joe scene, the death of Tiny Tim ("Little Tiny Child" sung by Laura DeGiacomo brings tears to your eyes) and Scrooge's own gravestone. He must reform or face this horrible fate.

Bill Mootos returns in triumph as the Narrator does a marvelous job weaving the story together and chokes the audience up when he reveals who he really is.The Cratchit family is terrific,too Zach Steele as Bob handles the comic moments trying to put a piece of coal in the heater in the first scene and putting his face against the door in the last scene. Zach does a nice job in the dramatic Tiny Tim death scene, too. Annie Kerins shines as Mrs. Cratchit. She and Zach display their topnotch singing voices and dancing ability. Annie is a hoot when she won't toast Scrooge and tugs at your heartstrings in the death sequence. Other family members include Joanna Rosen as Martha, Lily Ramras as Belinda and Jack Cormier as Peter. Blond haired eight year old Alex Hill is cute as a button as Tiny Tim and gives a hearty "God Bless Us Everyone" to the appreciative audience. Other comic performers include Stephanie Carlson as Mrs. Dilber, who delivers Scrooge's gruel and sells his bed clothes to Old Joe, Marc Geller also plays Old Joe and Aimee Doherty as the laundress. A word of praise to the whole cast and crew on a job very well done. So to get into the Christmas spirit, be sure to catch Hanover Theatre's splendid rendition of this classic tale. Tell them Tony sent you. Run do not walk to the box office before they run out of tickets.

"A Christmas Carol" (19 - 28 December)
@ 2 Southbridge Street, WORCESTER MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide