BWW Reviews: The Arvada Center Presents Family Holiday Cheer in A CHRISTMAS CAROL: THE MUSICAL

The Arvada Center remounts their Holiday classic, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, THE MUSICAL playing now through December 22nd on the Main Stage Theater. A CHRISTMAS CAROL, THE MUSICAL is the 1994 musical adaptation of Dickens' classic story, written by Mike Ockrent and Lynn Ahrens, featuring music by award winning composer, Alan Menken (Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Little Mermaid) and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens.

What can I say about this show - it instantly puts you in the Christmas spirit and has the audience transfixed from beginning to end. I was even trying to whimsically compare this excellent musical in relation to that holiday mainstay, the fruitcake. The problem with that is the fruitcake is a holiday joke and this superb production put on by the hard working and talented cast and crew of the Arvada Center is no joke but rather utterly delightful. This show is also a great sensory experience - you can feel the chill in the air and smell the smoke wafting from the chimneys, see amazing effects and hear those stunning voices. You had to smile as you heard Alan Menken resonating in the music of this show. This production also featured some great effects that brought a sense of Christmas wonder that gave the audience Christmas joy. Highlight numbers include Hear the Bells, Jolly Good Time, You Mean More to Me, Link by Link, Fezziwig's Annual Christmas Ball, A Place Called Home - Part II, Abundance and Charity, and Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.

Richard White commanded that stage as Ebenezer Scrooge and took the audience on this classic journey. Although I thought he could have been a little grumpier in the beginning, his Christmas transformation at the end brought a smile to everyone's face. I especially loved his song - Yesterday, Tomorrow and Today. In contrast to the grumpy Scrooge was his humbled, yet optimistic assistant, Bob Cratchit (expertly played by Cole Burden). He had such a wonderful and warm singing voice that was apparent in his song, You Mean More to Me. Megan Van de Hey was quite memorable as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Her accent was unique and hilarious and she owned her song, The Lights of Long Ago. Stephen Day was a bundle of energy and joy as the Ghost of Christmas Present and his song, Abundance and Charity was thoroughly enjoyable. Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck was eerie and haunting in her high-flying and fascinating choreography as the Ghost of Christmas Future. Brad Nacht was also spooky and dynamic as the late Jacob Marley and made Link by Link ever so creepy. Gregory Price and Sharon Kay While were absolutely adorable as Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig totally stole the show and relished in it. The Fezziwig's Annual Christmas Ball was one of the highlight numbers of the show. For me the heart and sole of the show lies in Tiny Tim and Vincent Rodriguez had the audience in the palm of his tiny little hand. I also have to compliment the children who did such a great job with this show and added the youthfulness required for this show. The entire ensemble did such a superb job of giving this show high energy, amazing voices, and the Christmas cheer that made this show such a hit.

I have to give a standing ovation to each member of the artistic crew for an excellent collaboration. Each member brought their personal expertise to ultimately elevate this wonderful show. Director Gavin Mayer was excellent in choosing an outstanding cast for this demanding show and his blocking was so effective, especially for such a large cast. I also have to give him props for the natural ease and flow of this musical. Musical Director David Nehls was also crucial and effective in finding dynamic voices and never missed a note conducting his orchestra with ease while gallons of fog effects poured into the music pit. Killy Skillman Hilsabeck once again stood out with her varied and high-energy choreography in this show and I especially loved the Fezziwig's Annual Christmas Ball and Abundance and Charity. I know that I say this a lot, but the set, by gifted set designer Brian Mallgrave is truly something to behold. I love that the set kept unfolding for the smaller scenes and loved the special effects popped up from....everywhere. This set also had so much dimension while still making room for this large cast. Lighting by Vance McKenzie and sound by David Thomas were excellent enhancements to make this show complete and the effects were superb. I also have to praise costumer Chris Campbell for the bright and merry designs that truly made this show and giving each scene and musical number its own fabulous look.

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Michael Mulhern Michael Mulhern has lived in Denver and been active in it's theater scene for over 10 years. He is originally from Wiesbaden, Germany and graduated with a BFA in Theater Performance from the University of Wisconsin-Superior. Currently he performs in one to two shows a year and is a proud member of the Denver Gay Men's Chorus. Some of Michael's favorite performances include - Lend Me a Tenor, Guys and Dolls, The Shadow Box, Buried Child, and Jeffrey. He is proud to represent Denver and it's growing theater community on!

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