Theater Review: A different take on ‘Christmas Carol’ at Pa. Playhouse
Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” comes wrapped in many theatrical packages from traditional to musical, to casts of 100 or more down to a single actor playing all the roles as Dickens did when he performed his work on stage.
The Pennsylvania Playhouse is showcasing yet another variation on the old classic with a “A Broadway Christmas Carol,” through Dec. 16.
Not your run-of-the mill version of the classic, “A Broadway Christmas Carol” features a cast of four, shameless pirating of melodies and outrageously-funny parodying of lyrics from popular Broadway musicals.
Written by Kathy Feininger, it is her inventive pairing of song titles to “Christmas Carol” characters and their situations that elicits peals of laughter.
Envision Scrooge bragging “We’re in the Money” (from the movie, “Gold Diggers of 1933”), the Ghost of Christmas Past admonishing “Try to Remember” (from the off-Broadway show, “The Fantastics”), Tiny Tim looking to “Tomorrow” (from “Annie”) or the Ghost of Christmas Present, who comes gift-wrapped, falling back on “Memory” (from “Cats”).
Director Rody Gilkeson, who has guided his share of musicals for area theater companies, has made the most of a highly-entertaining script, while getting the best results from cast and crew.
Heading up the cast as Scrooge is Bob Calder, who provides a different, less mean take on the iconic miser. In the opening night, Nov. 30 performance seen for review, Calder sang well and occasionally danced his way through his ghostly nighttime trips. His rendition of “Bring Him Home” (from “Les Miserables”), the only poignant moment in the play, is sung very effectively.
Others in the cast are Nikola Georgievski as The Man (who isn’t Scrooge), Sarah Pellegrini, The Woman (who also isn’t Scrooge), and Bill Whitney, The Man Behind the Piano (who also isn’t Scrooge).
Pellegrini plays nearly one dozen different roles from Mrs. Cratchit to Mrs. Fezziwig with gusto. She lends her powerful voice to a character whose casting is a total surprise.
Georgievski portrays Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s nephew Fred and Christmases Past and Yet to Come. He will forever be remembered, however, for his absolutely hysterical appearance as Tiny Tim.
As the accomplished Man Behind the Piano, Whitney is onstage accompanying the singers and providing background music nearly non-stop. He also wears a few ghostly trappings, while playing with a skeletal hand.
Music director Julius Sarkozy deserves credit for his role in successfully preparing the singers and the show’s challenging 31 numbers for the show.
Technically, the show is basic, but functional. The set design by Brett Oliveira and Kristen Wettstein features a faux stone wall upstage with two curtained entrances and exits. Scrooge’s bedroom is an elevated space stage right. Set changes, done with precision, consists of the addition or subtraction of moveable furniture or props.
Mary Catherine Bracali’s costumes are cleverly changed with the simple addition of draped material or an outer wrap.
The Pennsylvania Playhouse production of “A Broadway Christmas Carol” is loaded with creativity, energy and loads of laughs. To quote from one of the songs in the show, “You’re doing fine Ebenezer. Ebenezer, you’re OK.”
Tickets: Pennsylvania Playhouse Box Office, 390 Illick’s Mill Road, Bethlehem; paplayhouse.org; 610-865-1192