Friends, I will begin by prefacing this review with the fact that I am (kind of shamefully) a cheeseball Netflix original Christmas movie binge watching kind of person. Every holiday themed live production that I’ve ever seen was, well, underwhelming to be honest. Personally, I blame my childhood on my aversion to them. The whole time I was growing up, the thing to do at Christmas was to see a local production of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” Look, I’m sure it’s not a bad show at its core. However, being forced to sit through it and then all of the advertising for it on the years that I didn’t have to see it were not exactly my cup of tea. All of this is a roundabout way to tell you this: “A Seussified Christmas Carol” is not of the same breed as the aforementioned show. It’s a genuinely funny show that also has the typical Christmas heart, but doesn’t leave you feeling as though you’ve just been hit over the head by a Christmas wreath.
From start to finish, this show is incredibly tongue in cheek and feels as though the characters understand that the audience is in on the joke too.
The basic concept of this show is literally in the title: this play is the story of Charles Dickens’ famous novel A Christmas Carol but reworked to feel like a Dr. Seuss book comes to life right before your eyes. The author of this play, Peter Bloedel, also has a very distinct voice that really comes through in his writing. From start to finish, this show is incredibly tongue in cheek and feels as though the characters understand that the audience is in on the joke too. For that, I immensely applaud Bloedel for revamping an otherwise classic, but tragically overdone story. The life that his writing style breathes into the tale is utterly refreshing.
When I first entered the theater before the performance began, I could already feel the elusive Christmas spirit welling up in me (I’m one of those people that refuses to listen to Christmas music until I’ve eaten my Thanksgiving turkey. Yes, I know I am, in fact, a grinch). The sparkling silver curtain draping across the entirety of the stage with its red bow embellishments and the varied selection of Christmas music playing in the background really added a lovely touch. The set for this show, as designed by Tom McCarthy, was simplistic in nature, but really helped to flesh out the tone of this production and immerse you into the world of the story. Cartoon projections were used for the backdrops and the various set pieces were very stylized in order to look like something plucked straight out of a cartoon.
Sound design was done by Timothy Joyce and lighting design was done by Regina Richardson. Joyce did a satisfactory job on the sound. I was able to hear all of the actors’ lines due to their excellent diction and projection. However, I found the sound effects to be a bit on the loud side and abrupt. I wish they had been more smoothly interwoven into the story. Richardson’s lighting was adequate at helping to distinguish between present day and the various journeys that Scrooge goes on during his dreams.
My absolute favorite part of the technical side of this production was the costuming as designed by Jennifer Taubert. Taubert did a really fantastic job of helping to tell the story through her costumes. I felt as though I was living in a Dr. Seuss book come to life. Everything from the different Seussian citizens’ costumes that were in many scenes to having Scrooge’s pajamas be green with fur trim in order to designate him as a grinch like character was brilliant.
Moving on to the acting side of the things, there were five actors that I found to be of particular note. However, this entire ensemble really worked together quite well and had such a contagious exuberance about them. Joshua Prucha played the younger Scrooge with such a level of authenticity that I truly believed him to be his character. Rachael Howell played a very comforting mother figure as Mrs. Cratchit. Her midwestern accent was spot on and she just had this overwhelming maternal essence to her that caused me to fondly remember my childhood Christmas memories with my own mother. Neil Compton played The Scrooge with such a refreshing dedication to his character. This man is an utter marvel to watch with how he altered his gait, voice, and laugh to play such a cartoonish villain-turned-hero.
But friends, as you may well remember about most of my reviews, I usually have a favorite performance (or in this case two). My favorite performances of the night go to Carey Bibb and Kellie Podsednik as Narrators 1 and 2. These two women absolutely shattered any and all of my expectations for a holiday show. Their energy immersed the entire theater in an overwhelming glow that had me laughing, smiling, and deeply intrigued all at once. The comedic chemistry that these two actresses share is impressive to watch unfold before you. They really play off of each other in such a cohesive fashion that I truly felt like a small child having a Dr. Seuss book read to me by my two cool aunts. Both of their vocal cadences were immensely melodious and pleasing to listen to. Their physicality made me long for the days when I once had that kind of energy (thanks to my 2-year-old son for zapping all of that from me. Momma loves you though, baby). Here’s to hoping that Bibb and Podsednik are cast side by side in future productions. If their performances in this show are any indication of the future, I welcome it.
Closing this review out, I would like to acknowledge the artistic direction of Sarah Gravelle and Stacy Reynolds Oosterink. This play is full of an insane amount of rhyming lines that are almost akin to Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter in that they have to be done with just the right rhythm. If the rhythm is too slow, the entire show lags and is insufferable. If it’s too fast, the audience doesn’t have a chance to comprehend every line and feels so rushed that they don’t even have the opportunity to react to the content of the show. Gravelle and Oosterink did a masterful job at making sure that the sublime balance between these two extremes was achieved. I was able to absorb every line of dialogue, but did not find myself zoning out even once. My hat’s off to them for the ambitious undertaking that this show is and how impressively they made sure it was executed.
Friends, just go see this show. I usually set caveats on who should and shouldn’t seen a particular show, but honestly, the one is for everyone (unless you don’t celebrate Christmas, but honestly, I think even then you could glean some valuable themes from the story). It’s laugh-out-loud funny, heartwarming, and is certain to get you into that Christmas spirit that is so sought after. So, do yourself a favor and go buy your tickets. Like, seriously, go buy them now. They are already beginning to sell out certain performances and you don’t want to miss out on this show, trust me.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Running Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.
Advisory: This show is suitable for all ages.
“A Seussified Christmas Carol” is currently playing at the Three Notch Theatre through Sunday, December 15th. For more information and to buy tickets, please visit their website here.