BWW Reviews: Second City Alumni Hilariously Present A CHRISTMAS CAROL: TWIST YOUR DICKENS!
Created in collaboration with CTG, The Second City's satirical A CHRISTMAS CAROL: TWIST YOUR DICKENS! features Scrooge, the Cratchits and all the time-traveling ghosts normally found in this uplifting holiday fare, while breathing new life into the classic tale of hope and redemption with audience-interactive improvisations and a festive party atmosphere in the lobby - complete with the cocktails such as Tiny Timtinis and Scroogedrivers to prime the pump for next year's misdeeds. The play is written by Second City alumni Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort (both formerly of "The Colbert Report"), and is directed by fellow Second City alum Marc Warzecha.
The cast is made up of a talented group of Second City performers. Returning to A CHRISTMAS CAROL: TWIST YOUR DICKENS! for the second time are Frank Caeti, Amanda Blake Davis and Ron West. Joining them are Ithamar Enriquez, Brendan Jennings, Joe Liss and Jaime Moyer. The production changes nightly as this highly honed team of improvisational all-stars will be joined by a surprise celebrity guest and a parade of anonymous revelations of 'misdeeds past' from each performance's audience members.
How is this accomplished? When audience members arrive, they are asked to fill out green or red slips of construction paper telling our greatest misdeed, whether intentional or not. Then in the show, the ghost of Jacob Marley (Joe Liss) appears with chains around his neck made up of these audience submissions which he and Scrooge (Ron West) read and work into a most hilarious skit. And throughout the rest of the play, references are made to the various bad deeds contributed from the audience.
Each night there is a celebrity guest who appears at the beginning of Act 2. Rhea Perlman was the guest on opening night, claiming she was there working backstage as the last part of her community service. Scrooge asks what she did that was so bad and hands her another audience misdeed to read. And wouldn't you know it - she read mine which the two actors managed to work into a very funny bit about husbands, wives, best friends and cheap motels. There will be different guest star at each performance and you won't know who it will be until it is announced just before he or she takes the stage!
And of course, the comments from the audience will be different at each show as well, as will the suggestions shouted out from the audience which are then incorporated into skits. One of the funniest of the night was Scrooge confronting his first girlfriend during his visit to the past, when suggestions had her leaving him for a knitting gnawing astronaut who eventually showed up dressed to fit the character with props that fit the story line just created in the improv scene.
The combination of modern language and the classic story plays out while a costumed cast member appears frequently in the audience to stop the show when historically incorrect facts are presented. Of course this is just another funny bit because truth be told, it does not matter at all because we know the whole thing is bring played strictly for laughs, not authenticity. But it is a funny bit, especially when a group of protesters take the stage carrying signs "Down With Dickens" and another more explicit version that got the audience roaring with laughter. Since there is a lot of "colorful" language in the show, think twice about bringing young kids to this show as it will be a bit over their heads at times.
There are so many wonderful bits I cannot possible talk about all of them in this short review. Along with the standout performances of Ron West (Scrooge) and Joe Liss (The Ghost of Jacob Marley), other cast members command the stage as they share so many other characters and change costumes (fantastic designs by Leah Piehl) in rapid succession. Some notables are Frank Caeti (The Ghost of Christmas Past), Amanda Blake (Tiny Tim and many others), Ithamar Enriquez (Bob Crachit), BrenDon Jennings (The Ghost of Christmas Present), and Jaime Moyer (Mrs. Crachit, the Singing Nun, and Lucy in the Peanuts skit). Four of these actors started the show as a ghostly barbershop quartet in skeleton masks, and their song definitely prepared the audience for the hilarity that ensued.