CHRISTMAS CAROLE at the Alhambra: An Annual Holiday Favorite

ALHAMBRA THEATRE & DINING DUAL CRITICS REVIEW REVIEW

Once upon a time in 1935, the Alhambra Dinner Theatre first presented “Christmas Carole,” with music and lyrics by Bruce Allen Scudder and book by Janie Nowell. This original musical is based on the beloved classic story by Charles Dickens. The Alhambra’s family-friendly production is currently on stage at for the twenty-fifth time, and will remain until December 24, 2017.

A holiday visit to the Alhambra is a tradition for many local theatre goers, and most of the current run is sold old. If you want to see it, call the Alhambra’s box office at (904) 641-1212; if they don’t have tickets for a date you have in mind, ask for waiting list placement. The theatre and dining venue is located at 12000 Beach Boulevard in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.

We have seen the Alhambra’s production a number of times over the years, and had always gone to evening performances. This year, we opted for a matinee instead. The musical was of course the same wonderful show, and we discovered a pleasant surprise: the lavish menu is the same for both matinee and evening audiences. We passed on the traditional turkey and ham holiday feast, in favor of the beef and salmon entrées. We were delighted with our choices and the generous portions.

Playing the leading role of skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge is Alhambra Producer/Director, Tod Booth. He has directed this show twenty-five times and knows every line and accompanying gesture. Booth started acting at sixteen and during his thirty-three years at the Alhambra has appeared in many shows as a performer; most recently in January’s production of “Come Blow Your Horn.”

The only returning cast member from previous years is Ken Uibel, who has portrayed Jacob Marley and the three ghosts during twenty performances. He is, as always, superb as the unwanted visitors who guide Scrooge through the past, the present, and the future.

Michael Scott Ross plays the pivotal role of Nephew Fred. He appeared at the Alhambra earlier this year in “Annie.”

The Cratchit family had Chris Warren Murry as the father Bob, Jennifer Medure as the mother Dorothy, Aleah Grayce Gibbs as the daughter Sarah, and Lucy Feagins as Tiny Tim. Excellent performances, although we thought the characters were a bit overdressed; Bob’s employer Scrooge was a miser and the family was impoverished.

Rounding out the cast were Shaun Rice (Mr. Fezziwig), Megan Victoria Stillson (Mrs. Molly Fezziwig), Katie Nettle (Belle), Pierre Tannous (Charity Man 1), Adam Biner (Charity Man 2), Rachel Anton (Lizzie), and Victoria Miller (Annie). While Biner is a newcomer to the Alhambra, the others have appeared there in past productions.

The choreography by Stage Manager Shan Stroff was lively and colorful; the entire cast was winningly involved in “Christmas Magic.” Our favorite song was “He Isn’t Gonna Need It” at Scrooge’s make-believe funeral, which featured Lizzie (Rachel Anton) belting out the lyrics while leading the pack of paid mourners dressed in black.

Production Staff included Tod Booth (Director, Producer); Shain Stroff (Stage Manager,  Choreographer); Cathy Murphy Giddens (Musical Director); Dave Dionne (Scene Design); Camela Pitts and Dorinda Quiles (Costume Designers); Linnay Bennett (Sound Designer); Patti Eyler (Properties); Joseph Mahoney (Lighting Designer); Pattie Pitts (Hair Design).

This year is almost over and once again the Alhambra is planning an outstanding New Year’s Eve party with delicious food, Johnny Cash’s music, and dancing. The big balloon drop at midnight will be followed by a buffet breakfast. This event sells out quickly; early reservations are recommended.

The coming year will be the ninth year of management by Theatre Partners LLC and Managing Director Craig Smith, and the Alhambra will be presenting nine shows (eight are musicals). The season begins January 3, 2018 with “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” a throwback to the fifties. The season will bring a number of surprises; you can stay up to date by visiting alhambrajax.com or following Alhambra Theatre and Dining on Facebook.

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About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.

october, 2021

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