EBENEZER SCROOGEA Musical Adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol
Music and Lyrics by Joe Dickinson and Laurie Tirmenstein
Pocket Sandwich Theatre
Directed by Rodney Dobbs
Musical Director/Pianist - Amanda Scott
Choreographer/Asst. Director - Nancy Roberts Pistilli
Set Design - Rodney Dobbs
Lighting Design - Jeff Vance
Costume Design - Jeff Vance and Kate Bohot
Sound Design - David H.M. Lambert
Properties Design - Vicki Booker
Stage Manager - Stephanie Jackson
David H.M. Lambert - Ebenezer Scrooge
Kevin Michael Fuld - Jacob Marley
Sydney M. Favors - Ghost of the Past
Michael Roe - Ghost of the Present
Kenneth Pursell - Ghost of the Future
Steven Witkowicz - Bob Cratchit
Amy Wells - Mrs. Cratchit
Jennings Humpries - Tiny Tim
Jacob Aaron Cullum - Fred/Young Scrooge
Lara Beth Bliss - Belle
Laura C. Cutler - The Laundress
Angela Horn - Charwoman
Sara Pursell - Fred's Wife
Dan Nolen, Jr. - Belle's Husband
Emma Forshaw - Young Belle
Jack Halley - Boy Scrooge
Bella Lackey - Fan
Carl Dakota Nolan - Peter Cratchit
Tru Ramsey - Beth Cratchit
Kat Stark - Martha Cratchit
Reviewed Performance: 11/26/2011
Reviewed by Mary L. Clark, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
In my many years of making the annual A Christmas Carol pilgrimage, I've seen the deeply traditional, the mildly comedic, puppetry, vaudevillian song and dance, full-blown Broadway musical, and a popcorn throwing melodrama. Not surprising, Pocket Sandwich Theatre, being a diverse venue, has snippets of most of those theatre genres with their seasonal version of Ebenezer Scrooge. This musical adaptation by PST co-founder Joe Dickinson and Laurie Tirmenstein, is in its 30th holiday year. Dickinson and Tirmenstein also wrote the music and lyrics for half the musical's songs, the other half being the traditional ones we are accustomed to hearing many times over.
Though compacted and condensed here and there, Ebenezer Scrooge kept pretty close to the original story. I promised myself not to repeat those overly used words, but if I have to explain A Christmas Carol, well then my response shall be, "B! H". I found it refreshing to see the playbill denote not only three acts but also the story's five stanzas, subtly reminding us that this was a book 168 years before Alastair Sim, Albert Finney, Patrick Stewart, The Muppets, or Jim Carrey.
Twenty actors scrambled on and off stage, changing costumes and portraying all Dickens' principal characters and the street and townspeople that enriched his tale of greed and immortality easily placed on our newspapers' front pages without much notice, versus love, forgiveness and redemption that sadly never seems to make those same papers' news.
In his typically excellent style, co-founder, Director and Set Designer Rodney Dobbs, pulled the audience out of PST's casual digs into Victorian times with cobblestone streets, and a tri-level playing area with appearing and disappearing bed, pop-up gravestone, Marley's doorknocker face and all. The wondrously painted, snow-covered street scene done in perspective added richness to the set, and back wall projections subtly yet stunningly enhanced each of the play's many scenes. For me, the darkly drawn picture projections were the
highlight of Dobbs' design.
Costumes designed and gathered by Jeff Vance and Kate Bohot were somewhat hit and miss Victoriana. Berets and caps were off period as were the boys' knickers and a few women's dresses but everything blended together and the overall effect was acceptable. My friend and I did notice Marley's shoes were more 1950's Elvis than 1840's well-heeled London businessman. Jeff Vance also designed the lighting with all the appropriate full stage washes, dim midnight scenarios, and bright Christmas parties.
I thoroughly enjoyed the sound effects designed by David H.M. Lambert, who somehow also found time to portray Scrooge. The booming rumbles of dread and doom as the ghosts revealed Ebenezer's life-long misgivings elevated those scenes. On the opposite spectrum, the songs of Ebenezer Scrooge also enhanced the story for the most part. Musical Director Amanda Scott was the lone "orchestra", playing piano accompaniment for the evening's carols and upbeat original songs. Scott also brought out the best this ensemble had to offer with nicely sung duets, choruses, and solos. Scrooge rejoiced in "Bad Tidings" while the carolers retorted with "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen". A lovely song, "I Love Christmas", recounted Tiny Tim's unrequited dreams. Of course, with the very youngest, their voices were not solid and on-key but some of the teens were quite good and kept the songs in tune. There were standout adult singers, especially Amy Wells as Mrs. Cratchit. Her voice was soft and smooth, and when she sang "O Holy Night" to her huddled children, it was the proverbial pin drop.
Several songs, however, were too long and plodding, holding up the story. The opening traditional song, "A Soalin'", where street vendors sell their wares, introduced the play's setting but after a verse or two of the same lines became redundant. The evil and funny "Skullduggery", about the exploits of the characters who stole from Scrooge's death bed, went on and on. . . . and on. The four actors sang, danced, did vaudeville shtick, and practically stood on their heads. It ground the plot to a halt and made it difficult for Lambert and Kenneth Pursell as Ghost of the Future to start it rolling again.
This age-old story has plenty of juicy roles, large and small. Director Dobbs cast them equal opportunity, so some typically adult roles went to much young actors and young Belle's husband worked with an older man. First off, the British accents came and went frequently with a few tries at Cockney and something that resembled East London. And when only a few attempted an accent they stood out awkwardly. Jennings Humpries was a delightful Tiny Tim, masterfully taking charge of his scenes and eliciting more than one "ah" or "oh" from women audience members, with that child's positive words. Humpries was dedicated in portraying Tiny Tim's disability, bending his foot sideways and using his crutch with authority. I was proud of this young man's work.
A young actor taking on a typically adult role was Sydney M. Favors as the Ghost of the Past. Dancing around Scrooge in ballet tutu, and spinning him through his past life moments, Favors sprite face and impish smile made her performance all the more fun. Jacob Aaron Cullum played both a younger Scrooge and his nephew Fred as gentle and humble men, and had a quiet but solid tenor voice. His Christmas party song, "Yes or No", added humor to the scene, and humanity to Scrooge. Steven Witkowicz played a man of gentle compassion as Scrooge's clerk Bob Cratchit. His dinner speech to his family was warm and uplifting.
The mean old man himself, Ebenezer Scrooge, was powerfully and endearingly acted by David H.M. Lambert, maybe because he has been in this show for the past twenty years! His was not an overly grouchy, crotchety Scrooge. He was, in fact, quite a dapper gent with more of a good appetite than most Scrooges I had seen. Lambert used the "less is more" method when extolling his stance on business, his money, and the poor, yet became naturally child like when reliving
his past and a present that could have been. His was a more sublime and realistic character than the silly caricature often enacted; rich in cynicism, heartache, regret and joy as Dickens intended him to be.
Pocket Sandwich Theatre was named for the only food their kitchen served before shows. Today their menu holds more than above average pub fare along with beer, wine and soft drinks. It's great to casually eat and drink rather than having to down something quickly and rush off to the theatre. I'm sure with melodramas it's even more laid back and fun.
This year's production of Ebenezer Scrooge was joyful, picturesque, and engrossing. I came expecting a comedic or melodramatic rendition and left satisfied that Dickens' work was duly portrayed and that the Christmas season had truly begun.
Pocket Sandwich Theatre, 5400 E. Mockingbird Lane, Ste. 119
Dallas, TX 75206
Runs through December 23rd
Plays Thursdays ? Sundays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 7:00 pm.
Extra performances will be added December 14th, 15, 20 and 21st at 8:00pm, and matinees on December 11 &d 18 at 1:00pm.
Tickets are $10-$18 depending on the day, & all shows Dec. 17?
23rd are $18. There is a $2 discount for seniors and children
12 and under. Group rates are available.
Food and bevera