BWW REVIEW: 'A CHRISTMAS CAROL' IS A TIMELESS TRADITION AT NORTH SHORE MUSIC THEATRE
Adapted for the stage from the Charles Dickens novella by Jon Kimbell; assisted by David James and David Zoffoli; featuring traditional music of the season and original music composed and arranged by Alby Potts and James Woodland; scenic design, Howard C. Jones; costume coordinator, Paula Peasley-Ninestein; lighting designer, Jack Mehler; sound design, Leon Rothenberg; hair and wig design, Gerard Kelly; music direction, Mark Hartman; choreography, Billy Sprague, Jr.; directed by Arianna Knapp
The Scrooges: David Coffee, Ebeneezer Scrooge; Kevin PatRick Martin, Young Scrooge and The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come; Kyle McAdam, Boy Scrooge; Patrick Ryan, Fred; Stephanie Granade, Meg; Marlana Dunn, Belle; Julia Yameen, Fan
The Cratchits: Ryan Bates, The Narrator (Tiny Tim in his mid-20s); Russell Garrett, Bob Cratchit; Leigh Barrett, Mrs. Cratchit and The Ghost of Christmas Past; Shae Kingston, Martha Cratchit; Giacomo Favazza, Peter Cratchit; Emma Joanis, Belinda Cratchit; Sophia Joan Wustin, Tiny Tim and Little Ebeneezer
The Spirits: Matt Allen, Jacob Marley; Leigh Barrett, The Ghost of Christmas Past; George Dvorsky, The Ghost of Christmas Present and Gentleman 1; Kevin PatRick Martin, The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, and Young Scrooge; Sarah Gillespie and Emily Sousa, Ignorance and Want; Nathaniel Braga and Joshua Keith, The Pearlies
The Fezziwigs: J.T. Turner, Mr. Fezziwig and Gentleman 2; Cheryl McMahon, Mrs. Fezziwig and Mrs. Dilber
Revelers, Townsfolk, Parasites and Others: Tommy Labanaris, Old Joe and pawnbroker; Brandon Barbosa and Jordyn Barry, London Kids; John Budzyna, Dick Wilkins; John Budzyna, Andrea Collier, Stephanie Granade, Laura Helm, Tommy Labanaris, Kyle McAdam, and Coco Rich, Residents of London
Performances and Tickets:
North Shore Music Theatre, 62 Dunham Road, Beverly, MA; continues December 14, 15, 21, 22 and 23 at 7:30 pm; December 15, 16, 22 and 23 at 2 pm; tickets priced from $45 to $60, available at the Box Office, online at www.nsmt.org, or by calling 978-232-7200
If there's a better stage version of Charles Dickens' perennial holiday ghost tale A Christmas Carol than the one produced by the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, Mass., I haven't seen it. Rich with traditional and original music, haunting special effects, gorgeous period costumes and a splendid cast and orchestra, this musical adaptation by former NSMT artistic director Jon Kimbell delivers fresh and uplifting insights into the true meaning of Christmas year after year.
We all know the story: curmudgeonly miser Ebeneezer Scrooge (David Coffee) says "Bah, humbug" to Christmas and considers his browbeaten employee Bob Cratchit (Russell Garrett) and exuberant nephew Fred (Patrick Ryan) fools for wanting to celebrate the loving spirit that the day represents. When on a certain Christmas Eve Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his deceased partner Jacob Marley (Matt Allen) and then guided through his selfish past, present and future by three terrifying spirits, he mends the error of his ways and revels in his new-found joy of giving.
Perhaps it's the times, or perhaps it is David Coffee's vigorous and vile sincerity when spitting out the rancorous words "let the poor die and be done with it," but this time around Scrooge's antipathy toward London's less fortunate seems even more hateful and unfeeling than ever. Has Coffee fed his character's dark side with an endless loop of closed-door speeches about the 47 percent? It sure feels that way, because this year his Scrooge emerges more plainly than ever as a card-carrying member of the 1 percent. Once he sees the light and converts, though, watch out! He quite literally becomes "as giddy as a schoolboy." He bounces on his bed as if it were a trampoline and opens his coin purse with giggling glee. Hateful, pained, vulnerable and lonely - then redeemed and reborn with an open heart and youthful élan - Coffee may very well be delivering his greatest Scrooge yet.
The entire cast is sheer perfection. Ryan Bates sets the reflective tone as the kindly Narrator, an adult Tiny Tim who, with the help of two acrobatic and ethereAl Pearlies (Nathaniel Braga and Joshua Keith), takes Scrooge and the audience magically back in time. Matt Allen as the troubled spirit of Jacob Marley builds suspense and fear while flying ominously across the stage amid thunderous booms and brilliant flashes of light. Leigh Barrett, George Dvorsky, and Kevin PatRick Martin mix other-worldly menace with hopeful guidance as the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. Barrett and Dvorsky do it with splendid singing voices, Martin with ominous silence. The latter's statuesque pose upon Scrooge's unadorned tombstone during the third hour past midnight is particularly chilling.
As Scrooge's nephew Fred, Patrick Ryan cuts a dashing and affable figure, relentless in his attempts to bestow a "Merry Christmas" upon his uncle. Stephanie Granade, Marlana Dunn and Julia Yameen are lovely and loving as Meg, Belle and Fan, the three young women who in one way or another touch Scrooge's three lives. J.T. Turner as young Scrooge's best friend and employer Fezziwig is a blusteringly cheerful imp (he also does double duty as the charitable merchant known simply as Gentleman 2). Cheryl McMahon, always a joy, adds levity as Mrs. Fezziwig and especially as Mrs. Dilber, Scrooge's much put upon housekeeper. During Scrooge's climactic, jubilant transformation, McMahon's terrified reaction suggests that she has seen a ghost - or a demonic possession. The more McMahon quakes the more Coffee delights in increasing her awe. Together they raise the stakes and elevate the scene beyond all expectations.
The authenticity with which every actor - from the most seasoned professional to the tiniest tot and Tim - portrays his or her role makes this production of A Christmas Carol fresh and new. Even though many cast members have essayed their characters numerous times before, it feels like they are saying, and we are hearing, Dickens' familiar words for the very first time. Coffee, especially, now in his 19th year as Scrooge at NSMT, finds new layers of understanding. His anguish is deeper, his losses more profound, and his joy more healing than ever before. As timeless as Dickens' story is, Coffee and company are the ones who make A Christmas Carol worth revisiting every year.
PHOTOS BY PAUL LYDEN: David Coffee as Ebeneezer Scrooge
OTHER TRADITIONAL FAVORITES IN THE BOSTON AREA
Arabian Nights, visually stunning adaptation presented by the Nora Theatre Company and Underground Railway Theater, Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge; now through December 30, tickets are $15-$50, available at the Box Office, online at www.centralsquaretheater.org or by calling 617-576-9278
ChristmasTime, 30th edition of this musical spectacular presented by Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston, 617 Lexington Street, Waltham; now through December 16, tickets are $25-$54, available at the Box Office, online at www.reaglemusictheatre.com or by calling 781-891-5600
Holiday Memories by Truman Capote, starring Adrianne Krstansky, New Repertory Theatre, Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal Street, Watertown; now through December 23, tickets are $28-$58, available at the Box Office, online at www.newrep.org or by calling 617-923-8487
Holiday Pops, Boston Pops, a sleigh ride full of seasonal music, Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston; now through December 24, tickets are $29-$129, available at the Box Office, online at www.bso.org or by calling 888-266-1200
The Nutcracker, Boston Ballet, featuring an all new design, The Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street, Boston; now through December 30, tickets are $50-$182, available at the Box Office, online at www.bostonballet.org or by calling 617-65-6955
The Velveteen Rabbit, Boston Children's Theatre, the magical tale featuring puppets and people, Benjamin Franklin Institute, 41 Berkeley Street, Boston; December 15-23, tickets are $25, available online at www.bostonchildrenstheatre.org or by calling the Box Office at 617-424- 6634 x222