by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
That penny-pinching old skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge is back in residence at the Alhambra until Christmas Eve, as the original musical of Charles Dickens’ classic by Bruce Allen Scudder and Janie Newell makes its 23rd appearance on the stage where this version was born.
The Dual Critics usually write reviews to enlighten the public about what to expect in the show and hopefully to encourage them to see it. Well, that is not the case with this review, since all 51 performances are SOLD OUT! If you want to see it, you can call the theatre, give them a date, and ask them to put you on a waiting list in case someone has to cancel. You probably do have a chance to get tickets, and your odds probably are better than winning the Florida lottery.
We will forgo a description of the plot, it has been done on TV, in movies, and on stage hundreds of times. The Alhambra version was originally directed by Artistic Director TOD BOOTH and he once again has added the “Tod Touches” with bits of new and interesting business to make it even more fun. There are entirely new sets by DAVE DIONNE, but it is still Merry Old England in the 1800s. Some new special effects with the ghosts also make it more exciting. The Costume Crew has refreshed the costumes, and even the very poor Cratchits are dressed in more dapper attire than usual.
Several members of the cast have previously been in an Alhambra Christmas Carole. The original Scrooge who set the standard for this character twenty-three years ago, GARY MARACHEK, is once again a bit scary during the opening scenes but is entirely loveable by all at the final curtain, while keeping the audience in stitches along the way. KENNETH UIBEL once again plays the ghosts we love the most, as he has done for so many years. You can tell he is also a real crowd favorite from his applause at the curtain call.
JOSEPH PARRA, who has done several roles at the Alhambra, returns this year to play Fezziwig. SHAIN STROFF is another Carole returnee and this year he is Charity Man # 1, and in addition was the Choreographer.
At various shows during this run ABBY DAVEY, a veteran actress at the age of ten, will be playing Tiny Tim. Following in her footsteps on Gala Night, her younger brother HARRISON DAVEY played this role. Young Master Davey who is age four was the tiniest Tiny Tim we have ever seen but was a real trooper, who sang, danced, and knew all his lines perfectly.
TIM ELLIS as Scrooge’s nephew Fred sang marvelously in a pivotal role, with his songs as narrative for much of the action on the stage.
Director/Producer Booth has done a superb job of selecting performers who wonderfully are picture perfect for their roles and can really sing, and we mean sing. We don’t think we have ever hear Scudder’s unique musical compositions performed as well. We applaud TRAVIS GERALD YOUNG(Bob Cratchit), MICHELLE LYNN MYERS (Dorothy Cratchit), LAURIE BLOOM (Molly Fezziwig), KAYLA KELSAY (Belle), JOSHIAN MORALES (Charity Man # 2) and JENNIFER AUBUCHON (LIzzie).
The only other young person in the play was the Cratchit’s daughter Sarah, played by TAYLOR HALSEMA, who at age fourteen is already a seasoned Alhambra veteran with previous roles in “Joseph,” “The Wizard of OZ,” and “Willie Wonka.”
December has become a special month for the Alhambra since its rebirth four years ago. Last year, “White Christmas” was a solid sellout, like this year’s production of “Christmas Carole.” December 2014, it will be, by popular demand, the return once again of ” White Christmas.” We don’t know what is planned after that but don’t be surprised if old Ebenezer is back again.
Executive Chef DeJuan Roy offered two traditional holiday favorites, ham or turkey, both with all the trimmings, with additional choices of parmesan crusted salmon or stuffed roasted acorn squash.
We have seen Christmas Carole several times and always enjoyed it as the experience really seems to be the way to get into the Christmas Spirit. This year, we shared our table with two guests who were making their first visit to the Alhambra in several years and needless to say they were truly impressed with the many upscale changes that have taken place.
Time to be thinking of how to bring in the New Year, and speaking from experience, the Alhambra’s New Year’s Eve is always outstanding. This year the popular musical “Pump Boys and Dinettes” will be on the stage, and the dress theme is “Denim and Diamonds.” The evening starts with excellent food choices, not yet announced,. Following the musical, a band will play for dancing until the magical midnight hour and beyond, and then just to be sure no one goes home hungry after all that dancing, an always outstanding breakfast buffet will be served.
CHRISTMAS CAROLE 2013
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM