You've gotta love the fact that one of the most beloved Christmas stories of all time deals with misanthropy, hauntings, death, cynicism and poverty. And yet that's no doubt part of A Christmas Carol's charm. You wouldn't think the story would necessarily translate well into a musical, but the current production of Scrooge at the Civic Theatre proves otherwise. Scrooge is the musical version of A Christmas Carol, with book, music and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, who has a few musicals to his credit. What a delight it is to see a different take on an old story that is repeated often during this time of the year.
Ten years ago, my husband directed How to Eat Like a Child for Spokane Children's Theatre; now, one of those children is the director of this extravaganza. Kasey R.T. Graham is a theater major (with a minor in music) at Whitworth and serves as the director and musical director of this production. He does an excellent job. If he desires a career in theater, then I think he is well on his way to success.
Janet Wilder joins him as the choreographer, and together they have created a lovely ensemble. They did a wonderful job moving the production right along (it's a brisk two hours, including intermission). They kept everyone engaged, whether they were dancing, singing or just moving the intricate sets into and out of place. Believe me, with very young children in the cast, this is nothing short of miraculous.
Many performers were new to me and to the Civic. The lead actor, Dennis Craig, is marvelous as Scrooge, H. Hollis Higgins has a good turn as Marley, and Jon Lutyens is a fine Bob Cratchit -- although his thick makeup was distracting. The makeup, clearly meant to age the young Lutyens to appear roughly the same age as a mild-mannered Victorian clerk, in this case was too much -- Lutyens' acting was perfectly fine on its own. A Civic stalwart, Greg Pschirrer, is terrific as Tom Jenkins. Pschirrer, who literally grew up at the Civic, has been a Box and Hat player, has appeared in many musicals around town and is now a GU graduate.
Other actors who deserve mention include Rohann Flinn as the nephew, Aimee Paxton as Kathy, Kyle Sweet as Tiny Tim, Marnie Rorholm as Mrs. Cratchit and Tamara Power-Drutis as the love interest of Ebenezer, both young and old.
The three spirits of Christmas -- The Ghost of Christmas Past (Lacey Bohnet), the Ghost of Christmas Present (Civic newcomer Kim Berg) and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (another newcomer, Linda Graham) -- did a fine job, although I did find it disconcerting that they doubled in other roles. Bohnet was very good as the village woman, and Berg served well as a gentleman, but my suspension of disbelief couldn't stretch quite far enough here. Surely there were enough actors to go around not to double-cast at least such significant players as Christmas Past and Christmas Present.
Another treat of the evening was the music -- tunes I've never heard before, such as "I Hate the People," "December the 25th," "The Minister's Cat" and "Thank You Very Much." These were some of my favorites, but all of them were interesting and new to my ear. However, the orchestra might stifle their exuberance; it was difficult to comprehend the lyrics over their volume. The orchestra, under the direction of Ann Bruggemeier, sounds great; they just need to support the actors, not overwhelm them.
As usual, the technical staff of the Civic has done a fine job with the sets and the lighting (Peter Hardie), the costumes (Dee Finan, Susan Berger and Sara Ellen M. Hutchison) and the fine scenic painting of Nik Adams. The backdrop is magical. The rolling wagon of Christmas Present, with its distinct edges, did jar my aesthetic consciousness, but it still works. All of the set changes, complete with actors efficiently moving them, were integrated nicely into the story.
In the spirit of the season, let's add that it takes many volunteers -- the unsung heroes of any theater -- to mount such a production. There are volunteers in the box office, behind the concession counter, backstage, in the booth running lights and sound. The Civic is lucky to have such a loyal cadre of individuals.
Support your community by attending an arts event this holiday season, be it an art show, a concert or live theater. You won't be disappointed.