BWW Review: 'A CHRISTMAS' CANNOLI IS A TALE YOU CAN'T REFUSE at Carrollwood Players Theatre
With tongue firmly planted in cheek, from the imagination of local playwright Joe Pauly comes the outrageous tale of Ebenezer Scungili, the heat-toting Italian olive oil import company proprietor (wink-wink-nudge-nudge) and his miserly, Christmas-hating ways.
In this clever adaption of the holiday favorite, "A Christmas Cannoli" is what happens when "Casino," "Godfather 1, 2, and 3" meet "A Christmas Carol" and birth an illegitimate, blue-humored, sarcastic baby.
Perfectly narrated by director Beth Behner, laced with both innuendo and in-your-face overtures, leading this colorful collection of mobsters is Jim Russell as Ebenezer, a skinflint not interested in keeping Christmas in his heart... or any place, for that matter. Jim wears the role like a perfectly fit suit, making the audience hope he sees the error of his greedy ways before it's too late. Jim's adlibs were equally as funny as his take on the written script.
Ebenezer's "olive oil import company" has been hit by his rival mob boss Don Garbanzo (Tiger Von Pagel) and Ebenezer plans to take revenge.
Hippie Griswold is Ebenezer's long-suffering clerk Bob Clemenza who aspires to become a hitman, overworked, underpaid, and freezing in his boss's office. Instead of Tiny Tim, he must worry about his addle-brained son Tiny Tony played by Tiger. Tony is smart as a bag of rocks and while Bob's missus (Karen Tepfenhart) wants him to join the clergy, Ebenezer wants him on his payroll. Bob's other son- played with flamboyant excellence by Nicholas Hastings- doesn't fit into the mobster lifestyle.
Like the classic, Ebenezer is visited by the four ghosts who try to convince him to change his callous, impersonal ways.
The visit by his partner was the entrance of the evening. John Cammareri as Ghost of Jacob Moretti was one of the funniest moments of the night. John stole the show as the business partner - body still missing. I don't know if the costume was written into the script or if it came out the director's imagination, but it was an absolutely brilliant choice.
The Ghost of Christmas Past (Karen Tepfenhart) was a sexy rendition who brought Ebenezer back to youthful stay in St. Mary's Home for Unruly Boys and to the frightening sister who ran it with an iron hand and yardstick, delightfully played by Cynthia Di Iorio.
The Ghost of Christmas Present, portrayed with mobster abandon by David Fraga showed Ebenezer what he was missing in his current daily life, all the while smacking him to punctuate the importance of his words.
Who the uncommunicative Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come was, foreshadowing Ebenezer's path should he not change his ways, was the best reveal in the entire play.
Some additional moments that need recognition are Trish Garber as Mrs. Grasso, whose husband was stabbed, shot, fell from building and the police ruled a suicide; the volatile relationship between the restaurant owner and his chef, Khan Philips and Karen and the laugh of Ebenezer's nephew's wife, Emily Cockerill.
Of course, like the classic tale, old Ebenezer changes his ways and makes right with those he's wronged. You really should see this show, but if you didn't already get your tickets, it's a sold-out run, so you can wait and see if someone is a no-show or just, sadly, fuhgeddaboudit.