Review: ‘A Christmas Carol’

The multi-talented Steve Allen has penned a tuneful if unimaginative re-telling of the Dickens Christmas classic featuring an engaging, energetic outing by five-time Emmy nominee Harold Gould in the role of the misanthropic Ebenezer Scrooge.

The multi-talented Steve Allen has penned a tuneful if unimaginative re-telling of the Dickens Christmas classic featuring an engaging, energetic outing by five-time Emmy nominee Harold Gould in the role of the misanthropic Ebenezer Scrooge. Though a capable Theatre West ensemble manages to instill a bit of added holiday cheer, the production suffers from John Gallogly’s lackluster staging, further inhibited by Tom Giamario’s complicated and awkward modular set design.

During the introductory production numbers, Allen proves he can certainly create hummable melodies (“Wonderful Christmas,” “The Red of The Holly”), but he is much less effective as a host and narrator.

Eschewing any pretense at creating a character, Allen opens the show with an impromptu Q&A, mildly chastising the youth in the audience for their lack of interest in reading and then putting everyone on notice that they are about to witness “great English literature.” Book in hand, Allen proceeds to render a straight-forward, undramatic reading of Dickens’ text by way of setting up the scenes of the show.

Though he and the rest of the ensemble have to work hard to maneuver in and around Giamario’s obtrusive set pieces, Gould launches into the role of Scrooge with gleeful malevolence as he bombards his nephew Fred (Kevin Symons) with the unsavory facts of life (“Let Me Tell You Something, Fred”).

His later conversion by the visiting ghosts of Christmas is just as effective as he laments the loss of his youthful love Elizabeth (“Dream Girl”), regrets his years of self-serving wickedness (“The Things I Should Have Said”) and eventually glories in his conversion (“I’m Not The Man I Was,” “Let’s Have a Celebration”).

The supporting cast is generally excellent. David Brandt and Mary Garripoli are perfectly cast as Bob Cratchit and Mrs. Cratchit and one of the highlights of the show is their beautifully executed declaration of love (“The Time of My Life”).

Symons’ Fred exudes a magnetic sense of cheer and good will as he refuses to allow his uncle to detract one iota from his holiday cheer (“We Are One”). Faith Salie is properly angelic as Elizabeth whose “If I Only Had The Chance” is a heart-breaking lament as she watches young Scrooge (Brian Fenwick) lose himself to his ever-growing love of money.

Also lending solid support are Bridget Hanley as a cheerful but no-nonsense Ghost of Christmas Present and Murphy Giller’s outing as Tiny Tim (“God Bless us Everyone”).

A Christmas Carol

Theatre West; 165 seats; $25 top

Production

Theatre West presents a musical play in two acts, adapted from Charles Dickens, music & lyrics by Steve Allen, directed by John Gallogly; musical director, Paul Horner. Producers, Larry Thomas, Gallogly.

Creative

Sets, Tom Giamario; lighting & sound designs, Joe Morrissey; costumes, Katie Frye; assistant director, Debra Henri; assistant musical director, Brian O'Halloran; choreographer, William Mead; orchestrations, Peter Matz, Horner. Opened Nov. 24, 1999; reviewed Dec. 5; runs until Jan. 9. Running time: 2 HOURS.

Cast

Dickens/Narrator - Steve Allen
Ebenezer Scrooge - Harold Gould
Bob Cratchit - David Brandt
Mrs. Cratchit - Mary Garripoli
Fred - Kevin Symons
Elizabeth/Sarah - Faith Salie
Mabel Crouch/Charlotte - Lynn Chester
Belinda/Jenny - Hannah Cooper
Marley - Roger Cruz
Tiny Tim - Murphy Giller
Ghost of Christmas Present - Bridget Hanley
Ensemble: Brian Fenwick, Caitlin Gallogly, Graham Jackson, Molly Reynolds, Cosmo Zelman.
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