“A Christmas Carol – The Musical,” produced by 2nd Star Productions and directed by Brian Douglas, is a great way to start the holiday season. This musical adaptation features a musical score by Alan Menken (composer of Disney’s “Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Newsies,”) and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens (of “Ragtime,” animated “Anastasia,” “Seussical,” and many more.)
Bravo for a show-stopping Scrooge!
Despite the stellar composing team, the songs felt, well, ordinary. There were no show-stopping tunes and no particularly clever lyrics, and that is not at all a reflection on the excellent production quality by this talented community theatre! However, that is not to say that the songs aren’t perfectly enjoyable and easy on the ears.
Gene Valendo rivaled Michael Caine (my favorite Scrooge of all time) with his superstar performance – capturing the humbug spirit, mournful melancholy, stark terror, and happiness of newfound joy that a Scrooge must possess, and he portrayed every emotion with exquisite range and sensitivity and topped it off with a powerfully strong singing voice. Bravo for a show-stopping Scrooge! He brought to this production what the songwriting lacked and more than made up for any frustrated expectations.
And, he was supported by a fabulous cast. The three ghosts were particularly well done – Allison Erskine, the Ghost of Christmas Past, boasted a gorgeous singing voice and brought a snarky edge to her ghost that amused me to no end. Her elegant hand movements as she transitioned Scrooge from one scene to another added to her ghostly elegance – and her costume was beyond fantastic, easily the most complicated one of the night and too magnificently fantastical to spoil for you with a detailed description. You’ll appreciate it when you see it!
John Wakefield was hilarious as the Ghost of Christmas Present. He had a booming voice that was perfect for the jolly character traditionally associated with this ghost and his singing voice was equally as excellent. The third ghost was a special effect puppet that was extremely impressive, not to mention terrifying!
And speaking of terrifying, let’s talk about the special effects. Marley (played by Brian Binney) first appeared with the use of a magician’s trick projection that looked like an actual 3-D ghost on the stage. (Don’t ask me to explain how they did it, but it was very cool – and would probably scared the kiddies to pieces!) When Marley appeared in the (fantastically made-up ghostly) flesh, he was a treat for the eyes! Not to mention the fine details of his clunking chains which Binney used to great effect to terrify Scrooge.
He was soon joined by super creepy Ghost Dancers and I congratulate choreographer Kristin Rigsby for the clever way that they moved with their arms hanging loosely from elbows. And when Scrooge’s personally engraved tombstone appears? The moment drew applause from the audience for the dramatic effect.
I loved all of the Victorian costumes and as each character had several costume changes, it must have been quite a feat to pull off. Costume Designer Linda Swann did an outstanding job and the costumes really brought the atmosphere of Dickens’ London to life, as did the fantastic set painting done by Michael Mathes and Jane B. Wingard. The backdrop of gritty, dark London rooftops was a spectacularly creepy image for an evening spent with ghosts and was impressively rendered. It really made the special effects and sinister elements of the story pop and draw us in.
Overall, this is a very high quality community theatre production and I congratulate the cast and crew for a marvelous production. I highly recommend “A Christmas Carol – The Musical” at 2nd Star Productions as a delightfully unique adaptation of a tale that most of us have seen a minimum of five different versions of throughout the course of our lives. This one was new to me and so well done that I enjoyed every moment of it and I believe that you will, too, no matter how many other “Christmas Carols” you’ve seen.
Advisory: Very frightening special effects and characters; not recommended for second grade and younger.
Running Time: Approximately two hours, with one intermission
“A Christmas Carol – The Musical” by 2nd Star Productions plays through December 14, 2019. For more information, click here.