‘Tis the season— and that, of course, means the season for Rudolph and The Grinch and George Bailey and Ralphie and all manner of carols and appropriate songs of love and good will towards men.
Not the least of these is that formidable miser and all around humbug Ebenezer Scrooge.
No matter how many variations you have encountered of the unforgettable characters in Charles Dickens’ ”A Christmas Carol” — film and television (live action and cartoon), play, opera, ballet and book — one that will leave you with a definite handle on the spirit of the story is among the latest.
Based, of course, on Dickens’ novella, with music by Disney’s favorite composer Alan Menken and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, “A Christmas Carol” opened Friday evening at Warsaw’s Wagon Wheel Theatre, where it will play December weekends through Christmas Eve.
From beginning to end, this all-musical “Carol” is one of joy — visually, dramatically, melodically and in every other way that counts, and some that don’t.
The basic tale — of bitter, miserly Scrooge, his visits from three spirits and his reincarnation as the epitome of Christmas — is all there, as are all the familiar phrases: “Bah, Humbug!,” “God Bless Us Everyone!” and many more easily recognized. The plus here is that they are well sung by the talented principals and ensemble.
Director Scott Michaels, who not only choreographs this production but sings, dances and plays one of Scrooge’s indebted Londoners, turns the obviously limited WW playing space into the town square, a factory, a graveyard and a variety of other locations, all filled with singing and dancing Brits of all ages, from seniors to tiny talented youngsters.
As the about-to-be-saved Scrooge, Brett J. Frazier turns very believably from the man you love to hiss to the man who knows “how to keep Christmas well.”
Scrooge’s journey begins with a rattle of chains worn with relish by his deceased partner Jacob Marley (Mike Yocum) who rises (literally) to pay him an unwanted visit. Along with a number of ghoulish spectres, they describe his fate “Link By Link.”
Along the path to discovery, he encounters three very different — and very excellent — ghosts: the Ghost of Christmas Past (an hilariously fey Tyler Pirrung), the Ghost of Christmas Present (a delightfully dapper Chuckie Benson) and the Ghost of Christmas Future (a deceptively agile blind “hag” Jennifer Dow). All contribute to his overnight redemption via a trio of Michaels’ always mind-boggling ensemble dances, executed here with appropriately joyous enthusiasm by a combined chorus of adults, teens and young children. None miss a note or a step!!
Wrapping Victorian London in a cover of bright-colored costumes, designer Stephen R. Hollenbeck does his part in keeping the spirit bright, as does Michaels’ lighting design.
The extra-flexible setting, which quickly accents each location, is by the late Roy Hine and Michael Higgins, with swift-and-silent set-changing muscle power from cast and crew.
The icing on this holiday confection is the outstanding 10-piece orchestra under the direction of keyboardist Thomas N. Stirling, making Menken’s mostly up-tempo score a holiday delight to remember.
This production is the perfect way for a family to begin the season and carry home the familiwords of Tiny Tim (Olliver Pettit), delivered exuberantly to each and every one!
‘A CHRISTMAS CAROL” will be played weekends through Dec.24 in the theater at 2527 E. Center Street, Warsaw. For performance dates and times, call (574) 267-8041.