Sunday, December 9, 2018

Scrooge! The Musical at TLT

Dickens, but with pizazz
by Michael Dresdner

L to R: Emily Newland, Kaden Stanford, Olivia Zamira, Eva Hay, (Jeremy Lynch, Evie Merrill, Kenya Adams.
All photos by Dennis K Photography 

I rather suspect that Scrooge! The Musical, now playing at Tacoma Little Theatre, was created to add some welcome lightness and fun to the admittedly dreary and somewhat overdone Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol,” and in this case, it certainly does.

You know the story, right? Uber-miser Ebeneezer Scrooge (Andrew Fry) is visited in turn by ghosts of his departed business partner Jacob Marley (Joseph Woodland), and the ghosts of  Christmas past (Kathy Kluska), present (Chris Serface), and future (Alan Plaster.) Through the miracle of fiction, they manage to change the heart and mind of the old skinflint and make him do a total about face.

L to R: Joseph Woodland, Andrew Fry 
A very talented trio consisting of director Micheal O’Hara, musical director Zachary Kellogg, and choreographer Eric Clausell molded a huge and largely youthful cast into a most impressive ensemble. They set the tone right away with a powerful opening number that fills the hall with richly blended voices, along with often surprisingly intricate dance numbers. Better yet, they repeat the experience each time the chorus takes the stage.

Now and again one of them gets the chance to step out of the crowd and show us both great stage presence and equally fine vocal and dancing abilities. Some examples? Ok, just a few – it’s a large and able cast, after all. There’s Isabel (Allie Watkins), Ebenezer’s lost love with her beautiful and obviously trained vioce, Bob Cratchit (Jeremy Lynch), another finely trained singer with a most pleasant stage demeanor, the limber and energetic Tom Jenkins (Liam Loughridge), Mr. Fezziwig (George McClure who is way too spry for one his age, dammit,) The Ghost of Christmas Present (Chris Serface, the theatre’s managing artistic director who is also an outstanding actor who fills the room to bursting with his voluminous and thoroughly infectious ebullience,) and smallest, but certainly not least, the adorably winning Tiny Tim (Evie Merrill.) One gets the sense that there are probably quite a few more shining stars tucked away in that ensemble waiting for their shot. 
L to R: Andrew Fry, Chris Serface
It’s getting a bit tired to write this again and again, but as usual, they were backed by the regular and consistently excellent production team. Blake York’s initially stark set, a scrim-backed silhouette of the inside of a huge clock face, boasted four cleverly hidded doors for egress of both props and people. Back lit with changing scenery for locations, it also did a great job of creating starkly crisp shadows, particularly of Scrooge, when front lit. Scene changes had wonderful set pieces – street carts, a four poster bed, and Cratchit’s dining room, to name a few -- that slid silently and hermetically on and off stage.

An enormous array of excellent period costumes by Michelle Graves, with wigs and hair, by Jeffery Weaver, who is also the adroit props master, added to the rich panoply. Ditto for the varied and well though out lighting design by Niclas Olson, abetted by follow spot operators Kerry Bringman and Ku’uleialoha Hoapili. In this case, the music was “packaged,” meaning there is no live orchestra and the actors have to match pace and pitch with a pre-recorded score, a much more challenging situation than having a skilled conductor massaging the tempo and volume to those on stage.

Finally, one must acknowledge the Herculean task of keeping such a complex and lively array running smoothly. Kudos for that go to stage manager Nena Curley and ASM Courtney Rainer

All in all, there’s a whole lot of talent and even more energy flooding that stage for a Christmas offering that is decidedly more engaging and pleasant than the old Dickens standby that spawned it. You’d do well to consider spending a couple of hours with this delightful group during the holiday season.

Scrooge! The Musical
Dec. 7th to 30th, 2018
Tacoma Little Theatre

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