A BROADWAY CHRISTMAS CAROLby Kathy Feininger
Directed by Neale Whitmore
Music Director – Bryce Biffle
Set Design – Neale Whitmore
Lighting Design – Joe Nagel
Costume Design – Deborah Jaskolka
Graphics Design – Illuminated Designs Studio
Property Mistress – Deborah Jaskolka
Stage Manager – Marina Croslin
Mikey Abrams – Scrooge
Jason Scott – The Man Who isn’t Scrooge
Kelly Holmes – The Woman Who also isn’t Scrooge
Bryce Biffle – The Man Behind the Piano (Who also isn’t Scrooge)
Reviewed Performance: 11/2/2013
Reviewed by Mary L. Clark, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The age-old tale of greed to benevolence retold, using a medley of songs with parody lyrics from dozens of musicals, A Broadway Christmas Carol still stayed fairly true to the classic tale, creator Kathy Feininger stating, “We’re very reverent towards Charles Dickens”. That being said, there’s no sacredness when it comes to her lyrics, and from 42nd Street to Les Misérables, Sweet Charity to Phantom of the Opera, and Sound of Music to Avenue Q, some of them were so clever and perfect for the scene that a groan or laugh of recognition was audible from the audience after the song’s first bar of music.
After the piano overture of “White Christmas”, the cabaret revue-style show opened with the two man/one woman cast of actor/singers in black tuxedos and cocktail dress. Singing to the tune of “Comedy Tonight” and establishing who will play who, they began the story, playing on a simple, three-location set of scenic painted flats and platforms or down front and closer to the audience in the theatre’s voluminous black box space. Joe Nagel’s design clearly defined those areas in even-toned lighting with occasional blackouts or muted spotlighting during duets and solos. Use of any vibrant color was left for the holiday red and green LEDs at the opening and during intermission.
Watching the actors exit for quick costume changes or changing clothing pieces onstage as their various characters came back again and again, I visualized how it would have worked if they had stayed onstage the entire time, only adding a hat or shawl or jacket over their formal wear instead of the strenuous, sometimes full costume changes. Looking online at other theatre productions, apparently that is how it is usually performed, and for the most part it worked though I still wonder. Costumer Deborah Jaskolka used lots of wigs, hats, caps, jackets, aprons and long dress to nicely catch a bit of Victorian England. Scrooge’s grey fright wig, complete with intentionally obvious bald cap, was reminiscent of Back to the Future and Feininger didn’t miss the chance to parody that film as well. In fact, a few other movies such as The Exorcist and ET also had their oh-so-brief second of familiarity in the revue. Jaskolka also gathered the small amount of props, from Scrooge’s quill or Tiny Tim’s crutch to the Ghost of Christmas Present’s children, Want and Ignorance, as Avenue Q-esque hand puppets.
Music Director and complete “orchestra”, Bryce Biffle played the entire score except for the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come portion on an upright piano placed center stage. Its sound box covered with a cloth, the piano was muted and sounded a little out of tune or simply old. Whether on purpose musically or by Director Neale Whitmore I don’t know but Biffle played his heart out, only occasionally hitting a clunker, and certainly kept the revue upbeat and lively. He also briefly accompanied the singers vocally and menacingly played the role of the future ghost as The Phantom of the Opera with recorded full orchestra soundtrack.
Veteran musical theatre performer Mikey Abrams had the honored role of Ebenezer Scrooge. Though the youthful Scrooge suited Abrams more, his elderly Scrooge was full of over-the-top, vaudeville antics and showmanship. Choreography and body movements were exaggerated and his singing heightened for comedy, but as Scrooge opened his heart to Bob Cratchit’s pain over the loss of his son, his song to the tune of “Bring Him Home” from Les Misérables was a show-stopper that gave goose bumps and also opened my heart. Abrams’ ability to provide a certain amount of pathos in the midst of all the comedic scenes gave the audience a well-rounded, highly entertaining performance worthy of his vast experience.
All the women characters and Scrooge’s former partner, Jacob Marley, were played by the sassy and spirited Kelly Holmes. Looking every bit the cabaret singer, she marathon-ran through her roles, from Scrooge’s sister Fan, Belle, Ghost of Christmas Present(s) in a gift box, to Mrs. Cratchitt and others, her Jacob “Bob” Marley in long, blonde dreadlocks. Another consummate performer, Holmes’ characterizations were sometimes outrageous in their interpretation but definitely enjoyable and a bit bawdy, such as the Charity Collector’s donation request to Scrooge with “Hey Big Spender” or her untypically flirtatious Mrs. Fezziwig. Quite the theatrical songster, Holmes hammed it up most appropriately to the delight of the audience.
Taking up all the remaining roles, Jason Scott looked every bit the Bob Cratchit or Nephew Fred we’d want to see and his interpretation of those two main roles were equally as pleasing. The Ghost of Christmas Past was more than a bit New Aged, singing to “Try to Remember” from The Fantasticks. His best short characterization (pun) was Tiny Tim, in Annie wig and huge red bow tie, bellowing his “Tomorrow” less than sweetly to all who bullied him with, “I’m gonna get ya tomorrow” – hilarious! He scared the heck out of my friend and I when he snuck up to us in the dark as one of those who scavenged Scrooge’s things, asking about our jewelry. I told him he couldn’t have my necklace!
Abrams, Holmes and Scott had even more talent up their sleeve, or actually in their feet, as they tap danced most creditably and both Holmes and Scott handled their puppetry work well. I especially liked that the The Man Behind the Piano was so much more than just the musical accompanist, making all four a balanced ensemble.
Throughout the revue it sounded as though Abrams’ microphone was not on, not that it stopped him from being heard, and the mic cues were a bit late occasionally. All three singers went flat every once in awhile and I questioned whether the muted piano might have been at fault. No matter, the energy of the performances, the cleverness of Feininger’s lyrics and the sheer fun of the production was more than enough to recommend A Broadway Christmas Carol as a fun and thankfully unique version of this well-worn tale. Yes, it’s only November and Thanksgiving is still three weeks away, but if we can handle Christmas décor in the stores before Halloween then it’s never too early to get your Dickens on.
Frisco Community Theatre
Frisco Discovery Center
8004 North Dallas Parkway, Ste. 200
Frisco, TX 75034
Plays through November 17th
Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm and Sunday at 2:30 pm
Tickets are $21.00 for evening shows and $19.00 for matinees. There is a $2.00 discount for seniors 60+, students and military ($1.50 charge per ticket for credit card payments).
For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.friscocommunitytheatre.com, call them at 972-370-2266 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org