BWW Review: ZACH Theatre's A CHRISTMAS CAROL Perfect Holiday Entertainment
ZACH Theatre's A CHRISTMAS CAROL has been a holiday tradition in these parts for many years, and just when you think it can't get any better, Director Dave Steakley goes and does just that. He gives us bigger stars, better songs and a more topical message. I've been a fan of the show since I first reviewed it four years ago, but this year is the best ever, mostly due to the casting of Austin theatre legend Marc Pouhé as Scrooge.
Dickens original story, published in 1843, has become a holiday favorite worldwide. The story of the redemption of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge is one that touches our basic faith in mankind and belief that people can change. We all know the tale of how the crusty old man is visited by his late business partner and three more ghosts who transform Scrooge into a generous and caring human. I have a personal tradition of rereading the novel every holiday season, the story never fails to touch my heart and bring tears to my eyes. The element that sets the ZACH production apart is the inclusiveness and effervescence that Steakley's adaptation brings to every moment of the production. Music Director Allen Robertson's true genius is on full display with his stunning musical arrangements of popular songs including every genre from classic Christmas tunes to rap. A few changes to the script have been made since I saw the show last, two years ago that reflect new talent on stage as well as highlight recent events in local news that should resound in everyone's heart. Perhaps it was just me, but the dialogue speaking to homelessness was particularly heartbreaking.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL is stellar from top to bottom, every aspect of the show has been perfected and polished by an expert team and professional cast. Leading the way is Marc Pouhé as Scrooge. I've seen him in perhaps a dozen shows over the years and I am always impressed with his acting ability, but he brings a magic to Scrooge that is undeniable. Since I'm such a Dickens fan, it should surprise no one that I have a Scrooge ranking system. I've seen too many productions of the play to count and I've viewed every film depiction multiple times. With ZACH's production, Marc Pouhé surpasses my former favorite Sir Michael Caine as the best Scrooge ever. His presence is commanding and his playfulness keeps the audience grinning the entire show.
The ensemble cast is astounding a special few cast members shine above the rest. Roderick Sanford as Jacob Marley (and several other characters) is frightening and delightful in turns, his voice sears our very soul with 'For The Love Of Money'. As Young Scrooge, Martavius Parrish is a wonderful addition to the cast, giving the character added depth with his transformation from young lover to man of business. As the Ghost Of Christmas Past, Kenny Williams gives his most hilarious performance yet, lighting up the stage with his magnificent presence. Mary Bridget Davis brings her superior vocal talent to The Ghost Of Present, totally rocking the house. Don't be surprised if there's a Tiny Tina instead of a Tiny Tim at a performance you attend. Eliana Torres will completely steal your heart as the female version of the Dickensian tot. The show is technically the same as in previous years, why mettle with perfection? The set, designed by Bob Lavallee is still awe inspiring with the proscenium decorated with clock cogs, and the coolest moving bed you have ever seen. Susan Branch Towne's costume design is still as gorgeous as the first time I saw show. Lighting designed by Sarah EC Maines is pure and magical, her use of rainbow lighting effects at pivotal moments are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Choreography by Jen Young Mahlstedt has her dancers absolutely kill it every song. Put together it's one of the most entertaining shows you will ever see, it's so far above the normal holiday fair that it's not even funny. My companion for the evening, Austin Theatre and Film Producer, Stephanie Moore declared the show "Absolutely perfect!" And I completely agree. If you have one show to attend this holiday season, please make it ZACH's A CHRISTMAS CAROL, your entire family will love every moment.
I would like to thank all of our readers and wish you and yours a Very Happy Holiday Season.
Photo credit Kirk Tuck
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Adapted and Directed by Dave Steakley
Musical Direction by Alan Robertson
Choreographed by Jen Young Mahlstedt
with additional Choreography by Christ's Oliver
November 20 - December 29, 2019
Topfer Theatre at ZACH Theatre
Running Time: 2.5 hours with one 20 minute intermission
Tickets: Starting at $30