BWW Review: A SYRACUSE CHRISTMAS CAROL Debuts at the Redhouse

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BWW Review: A SYRACUSE CHRISTMAS CAROL Debuts at the Redhouse
L-R Josie Shaw (on bed), Fred Grandy, Benjamin Howes, and the company of Redhouse Arts Center's production of A Syracuse Christmas Carol.
Photo by Genevieve Fridley.

For the 2019 holiday season Redhouse Arts Center has brought an entertaining and new musical production of A Syracuse Christmas Carol to their stage under the direction of Hunter Foster. The musical is of course inspired by the classic Holiday story of Scrooge and it incorporates everything and anything related to the city of Syracuse and the surrounding areas. It is a delight for those born and raised in Syracuse as all those familiar people, products, and locations pop up throughout the show. The production charms if you are from or have ever lived in the Syracuse area.

The musical is inspired by the production, A Connecticut Christmas Carol that was originally produced at Goodspeed Opera House. This was also under the direction of Hunter Foster. The musical features a charming book by LJ Fecho with entertaining music and lyrics by Michael O'Flaherty along with choreography by Lisa Shriver, the same team that brought A Connecticut Christmas Carol to Goodspeed Opera House. The musical also features orchestrations by Dan LeLange and additional sound effects by Jay Hilton.

I have lived in the Syracuse area all of my life and I do have to say that the musical is without a doubt entertaining. It can be predictable at times. However, it brings a smile and laughter, making it a perfectly entertaining holiday show.

The musical features an adorable cast bringing newly interpreted versions of Scrooge, Cratchit, the Ghosts, and many others to life. The result is just a fun night out as Adam Koch's scenic design brings a little bit of the city of Syracuse into the Redhouse stage. Incorporating the history, interests, and known names from Syracuse is just an amusing approach to a musical. So, if you are from Syracuse and the surrounding areas, there are a few treasured things such as salt potatoes, anything Irish, Syracuse Sports (Go Orange!), L. Frank Baum, Wegmans, and so much more. How is that incorporated in a musical inspired by Scrooge and Syracuse? Well, that you will have to see for yourself because I certainly will not ruin the entertainment value of the book for this musical. The surprise factor of the characters, particularly the Ghosts (Benjamin Howes), brings nonstop laughter to the local crowd.

The heartwarming cast features some Actor's Equity Association members along with local talent and some production interns of the Redhouse. The entire cast delivers an energetic, and entertaining production of A Syracuse Christmas Carol.

The always memorable and spellbinding Fred Grandy has once again returned to the Redhouse, this time taking on the role of Syracuse's Ebenezer Scrooge. Seeing Grandy on stage is always a treat and for the holiday season, in this particular role, it is as sweet as can be. Grandy starts off the show as a Janitor in the empty and eerie Redhouse telling the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, who resides in the city of Syracuse, to two children (Haley Grogan and Wyatt McDaniel) coming to the empty theater for a rehearsal. As one can imagine, if you have been lucky enough to see Grandy perform live on stage, he captivates and captures the audience attention instantly. His consistency and spot on facial expressions make him the ideal casting choice for Scrooge. This is the first time the audience at the Redhouse has been treated to his performance in a musical and he does not disappoint. His approach is more if a speak-sing approach. It steals the spotlight in his various musical numbers such as "Krumpus" and "It Nearly Worked."

Benjamin Howes brings down the house with his portrayals of the Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present, and The Ghost of Christmas Future. The criteria for these Ghosts are that they must be dead and related in some manner to Syracuse. The excitement to finding out these chosen characters is what makes this production purely fun. So, I will not give away those treats. All I can say is Howes shines in each and every role as he takes on these historic (for Syracuse) roles. His character acting skills take center stage. Howes is a highlight of the production.

The Cratchit family features Temar Underwood taking on the role of Bob Cratchit and his vocals once again light up the stage (he was recently in RENT at the Redhouse). His performance of the amusing and toe-tapping "How Can You Resist the Irresistible?" along with Ryan Albinus as Harry and other ensemble members, was a highlight of the production. Underwood's chemistry and charm shines alongside the rest of the Cratchit family in numbers such as "Carry On" and "It's the Season."

Taking on the roles of the rest of the Cratchit family include the talented Krystal Scott as the Martha, Josie Shaw lighting up the stage as Tiny Tim, and Sofia Benderski as Kathy.

The ensemble members in the production all have their chance to shine as they take on numerous roles. Ryan Albinus portrays Young Alexander and Harry. As Harry he lights up the stage with his vibrant energy. His vocals are a standout in the production. Adrian Beck portrays young Scrooge and showcases some impressive acting chops and chemistry on stage. Beck's musical number, alongside Adeline Whitener as Jen, "Forgive and Forget" is a beautiful song showcasing Beck and Whitener's lovely vocals. Jason Timothy is a highlight in his numerous roles. Allison Macri portrays Isabel, Helen, and other roles and she delivered a top-notch performance. Jaelle LaGuerre plays Megan Muldoon displaying great energy and confidence.

Last but certainly not least are the other local children showing us their best in their various roles. Isabella Stechyshyn as Tiffy showcases line delivery beyond her years, a natural on stage. Wyatt McDaniel as Mark charms with his intoxicating energy. Justin Dunn as a street kid delivers a memorable performance. Finally, Haley Grogan as Jane has the energy, facial expressions, power, and charm that is mesmerizing. Grogan's spunky personality took center stage.

A Syracuse Christmas Carol is amusing and just fun. If you are not from Syracuse or do not know about the Syracuse area most of the jokes will land flat. However, if you are from the area this musical is an enjoyable night out for the Holiday season.

Running time: Approximately two hours and ten minutes with one twenty-minute intermission.

A Syracuse Christmas Carol runs through December 22, 2019 at Redhouse Arts Center which is located at 400 South Salina Street in Syracuse NY. For tickets, click here.

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From This Author Natasha Ashley

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