Scrooge and Tiny Tim will never be viewed the same. And don’t be surprised if at your next A Christmas Carol experience, you suddenly find yourself swapping out the show’s sadness with smirks, replacing ghosts with guffaws.
MetroStage has brought back its nutty seasonal chestnut, A Broadway Christmas Carol, a retelling of the classic story as an entirely vaudevillian send up. Classic Broadway standards are cleverly and groan-inducingly interspersed into the show, from Annie to Sweeney Todd, and many in between, offering musical-lovers a buffet of mixed genre entertainment.
Created by local artist and director Kath Feinenger more than 15 years ago, this has been a regional favorite in the DC area and has found a nice home at the cozy MetroStage. There have been a few adjustments—a new opening and a few changed songs, but the basic show has remained the same. Adding to the madcap, it is performed by only three performers, with a quick nod to our gifted piano player, who jumps in when needed to be the ‘face’ and voice of Phantom.
The action works so well because it is so intensely focused. There are many aha! moments—then just as quickly you are on to another theme. Michael Sharp as Scrooge, (also director and choreographer) was played with all the humbug and schmaltz he could squeeze out of the role. He was comfortable in the dramatic pacing and in the frenzied action that broke out. His soaring “Take Him Home” (Les Miserables) showcased his vocal range. His singing transitioned beautifully between whimsical, sarcastic and sensitive.
The other performers, playing many other roles and donning many costumes, were Russell Sunday as the Man Not Scrooge, and Tracey Stephens the Woman Who Isn’t Scrooge. Jacob Kidder is The Man Behind the Piano and is situated right onstage, smoothly performing the full score of 34 songs. Yes, I counted.
Sunday exhibited fine vocal range and falsetto, and nimbleness onstage. A beefy man, his version of Tiny Tim, singing “I’ll Walk Again … ‘Tomorrow,” (Annie) at once heartfelt, and then manic, was priceless. There were a few bumps in the road, but for the breakneck pace of it all, it was expected.
MetroStage has brought back its nutty seasonal chestnut.
Ms. Stephens, with a year of this show under her belt, provided the energy and vocal power for the show. A veteran of impersonation and physical comedy from years with Capital Steps, she flowed with the other actors in stagecraft, nuance, costume changes – she did it all. Vocalization, accents, dance routines—a joy to watch.
Personal favorites were “I’m in the Money” (42nd Street) “Touch Me” (Cats) the aforementioned “Tomorrow” and the showstopping “Ebeneezer”(from Oklahoma!) with the just the right syllables.
And just to keep us on our toes, Act II brought us a nice change of pace—puppets by the names Want and Ignorance, from Dickens ghosts. How else to sneak in the song “It Sucks to be Thee” from the obscure Avenue Q?
Producer and Artistic Director Carolyn Griffin clearly has a soft spot for this show and the good cheer it receives. The night it was reviewed, several children squealed with laughter at the character’s antics. A good sign. If you are a purist, and just want to hear an entire Broadway song, you might get frustrated. But playing name that tune got too complicated.
In the end, the show succeeds because it never ever takes itself seriously. And if you are taking yourself THAT seriously during yuletide season, either you shouldn’t be here – or perhaps you need to be here!
Yes, its back, slightly revamped, and like a fruitcake, it shows up this time of year and balances out all the other Christmas festivities. Whether it’s as tasty the next time around is up to you.
Running Time: 1 hour and 40 minutes with an intermission.
A Broadway Christmas Carol was presented at MetroStage, 1201 North Royal St, Alexandria, VA on Nov. 15-23. For tickets to other performances in the 2012-2013 season, call the box office at (800) 494-8497 or by clicking here.