Theatre Mirror Reviews-"A Christmas Carol --- NSMT"

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entire contents copyright 2014 by Tony Annicone

"A Christmas Carol --- NSMT"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Bill Hanney's North Shore Musical Theatre's annual holiday presentation is  "A Christmas Carol, a musical ghost story. Former NSMT's artistic director Jon Kimball returns to direct the show that he wrote in 1989 and that over a million people have enjoyed since then. He brings his version of the Dickens classic to the very appreciative audiences usher them into the holiday spirit. Jon 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 appeared". This musical adaptation captures the true meaning and spirit of the holiday season and it will be wonderful to see new generations of families coming together once again to witness such a heartwarming annual holiday tradition. David Coffee returns for his 21st year as Ebenezer Scrooge. This show tells the story of the curmudgeonly miser who is visited by the ghosts of Marley, Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come who hope to change his destiny and save his soul. Audiences travel with Scrooge on this strange and magical journey and ultimately discovers the true Christmas spirit at last. The special effects especially the flying sequences are phenomenal as are the musical numbers. This is the definitive version of this well known tale, making it a must see show this season.

From the minute you enter the theatre, you are taken back to the nineteenth century. The novel written in 1843 is as relevant today as it was back then. Jon created NSMT's adaptation with David Zoffoli and David James. It features original music and arrangements by Alby Potts and James Woodland with original and adapted lyrics by Jon. He does a fantastic job as director, keeping the show in constant motion, having the performers enter and exit through the audience. Jon blends the dramatic and comic moments together excellently. He obtains many laugh and a few tears along the way on Scrooge's magical journey. Musical director Milton Granger conducts a ten piece orchestra and taught the cast these gorgeous songs while choreographer and associate director Kevin Hill uses some of John MacInnes period dances for this talented cast who perform it in perfect unison. David Coffee marks his twenty first year as Scrooge at NSMT. He delivers a tour-de-force performance and is the quintessential Scrooge. David's comic moments include yelling at Fred, Bob, the almsmen and the carolers to shut up, however it is in Fan's death, the broken engagement with Belle, the transformation scene and Tiny Tim's death is where the pathos pours out over the audience enveloping them and leaves them in tears. David makes you aware how Scrooge has learned from his past, present and future on how to become a better man. David is definitely the embodiment of what Dickens had in mind as Scrooge when he wrote his novel. Bravo!

Tommy Labanaris as the Narrator does a wonderful job. He displays his strong voice in the opening number and the poignant "The Little Child" about Tiny Tim's death. A surprise revelation at the end of the show will leave you in tears.Two acrobatic dancers, Nathaniel Braga and Brad Trump called the Pearlies help move the story forward with their magical abilities to spook Mrs. Dilber and transport Scrooge and the other spirits around the stage and magical dust to give them the Christmas spirit. The most impressive is when they move Marley's chains making them look like lightening bolts.  Freddie Kimmel as Jacob Marley scares the crap out of Scrooge and the audience as he hovers over our heads flying about. The pyrotechnics and flying effects are by ZFX.

Leading the Ghosts off is Leigh Barrett as Christmas Past. This is her fourth year playing the role. Leigh is a pretty red head with a glorious soprano voice which soars in "A Dream Within a Dream" with two backup girls singing with her and two more pushing the set piece Leigh is on. She scolds Scrooge for his ill treatment of Fred when they watch the scene between Fan and Boy Scrooge. Scarlet Keene-Connole plays Fan and Jack Favazza as Boy Scrooge doing a splendid job. I have been reviewing Jack since he was 12 years old here at NSMT when he was in "Tarzan".Belle is played with great warmth by Lennie Kmiec. She shines in the break up scene with Young Scrooge. Dan Reardon plays Young Scrooge while Tim McShea plays his best friend, Dick Wilkins. Peter Adams is magnificent as Christmas Present He stops the show with "Boar's Head Carol" and again with "The Gloucstershire Carol" with his marvelous tenor voice. He is on stilts as the ghost towering over everyone. Dan Reardon also plays the Ghost of the Future. The hilarious Cheryl McMahon steals many a scene as Mrs. Dilber. Some of her funny moments occur when she is frightened by a blanket rising from the bed, Scrooge's coat flying over her face and at the end holds a crucifix in front of her to keep them away from her. They is a funny kissing moment when Scrooge smooches her on the cheek after he is transformed. Cheryl also shines as Mrs. Fezziwig. She and  JT Turner as Fezziwig lead a polka type dance with the family members.

Fred is marvelously played by Bronson Norris Murphy. He is tall, dark and handsome with a fantastic tenor voice and he and Lianne Gennaco is pretty and petite who has a fabulous soprano voice and their song is brilliantly rendered, "Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day". Their voices blend together perfectly. I last reviewed Lianne as Maria in "West Side Story" in Foxboro in 2005. Bronson is also funny in the opening scene making the boy carolers bother his uncle with a song and in the party scene describing his uncle's ill temper to the guests. The performers who portray the Cratchit family do a terrific job, too. Russell Garrett shines as Bob, displaying comic and dramatic scenes with ease. His comic scenes occur at the start of the show with Scrooge, the first family scene and the last scene when he faints. Russell's dramatic scene at Tiny Tim's death is superb, too. Leigh also portrays Mrs. Cratchit and sings the tear jerking "The Little Child" after Tim's death. Jake Flynn who is only 8 years old shines as Tiny Tim. He tugs at your heartstrings in this role and displays his strong singing voice in "I Saw Three Ships" and his God Bless Us Everyone is topnotch. Jillian Furber is Martha, Tony Weissenger is Peter and Eowyon Young is Belinda and they display the comedy and pathos needed. Tony does a great job reading the touching Bible passage. John-Michael Breen who I reviewed as Little Guido in "Nine" at NSMT back in 2004 returns to play Old Joe. He handles the role wonderfully especially the vaudeville type song "Isn't Grand Boys?" with Cheryl as Mrs. Dilber which stops the show with hilarity. So for a phenomenal rendition of this well known classic show, be sure to catch NSMT's version before time runs out. It will definitely get you into the Christmas spirit. Tell them Tony sent you. The excellent costumes are by Paula Peasley-Ninestein and the sets by Howard Jones

"A Christmas Carol" (5 - 21 December)
@ 62 Dunham Road, BEVERLY MA

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