EBONY SCROOGEby D. W. Larson, Music and arrangements by Jon Raveneau
CrossOver Arts Theatre
Director/Set Design: Kathi Baker
Musical Director: Jon Raveneau
Choreographer: JuNene K
Stage Manager: Dennis Ranevneau
Lighting Design: Mark Pearson
Sound Design: Kristin Raveneau
Costumes/Props: Christie Hernandez
Francis Scrooge: Bryan Blanks
Roberta Cratchet: Christie Hernandez
Lead Caroler, Ghost of Christmas Present Vandal: LaDarius Walker
Ebony Scrooge: Ariana Cook
Sister Sadie, Ensemble: Mimi Diallo
Sister Katie, Ensemble: Jayla Lane
Marcus Jacobs: Dennis Raveneau
Ghost of Christmas Past, Ensemble: Sydney Hewitt
Ghost of Christmas Future, Aunt, Mother: Sherry Hurnes
Child Ebony: Francesca Nelle
Teen Ebony, Ensemble: Gabriella Reyes-Cruz
John Cratchet: Jamal Sterling
Jenny Cratchet, Lead Dancer: Maya Pearson
Sam Cratchet, Ensemble: Tomisin Ogunfunmi
Tammy Cratchet, Ensemble: Taylor Neely
Francine, Ensemble: Keeiona Burnett
News Anchor, Ensemble: Dominique Hunter
Soloist, Ensemble: Desiree Greene
Ensemble: Wendel Jackson, Quincy Miller, Imani Williams
Reviewed Performance: 12/14/2012
Reviewed by Elaine Plybon, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The original novella is credited with introducing phrases such as "Merry Christmas" and "Bah Humbug" to the English vocabulary and may have been the spark required to restore Victorian traditions to the Christmas celebrations we experience today.
The original story involves a stingy businessman, Ebenezer Scrooge, who never celebrates Christmas and lets his greed overpower a generally unlikeable personality. He doesn't pay his hard-working secretary, Bob Cratchit, enough to support his family, and never allows him time off for the holidays. Scrooge spends most of his time counting his money and coming up with new ways to get more. One night, he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, and the following visits from the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future lead to a transformation of character for Scrooge, who decides to start celebrating Christmas and be generous with his wealth.
Ebony Scrooge, written by D.M. Larson, is a parody of the familiar tale. In this version, Ebony Scrooge is a greedy restaurateur who has lost her love of Christmas and treats those around her unfairly. Her nephew, Francis, attempts to restore a feeling of family and hope within her and is unsuccessful, but a nighttime visit by the ghost of her former partner, Marcus Jacobs, followed by ethereal visits from the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future lead to the transformation of the restaurant owner and spreading of good will.
This production by the Crossover Arts Theatre includes an adaptation by Musical Director, Jon Raveneau, which turns this into a musical performance. Jazzy arrangements of traditional Christmas carols are included, as are original pieces written by Raveneau and Director Kathi Baker.
As I sat in the Desoto Corner Theater waiting for the show to begin, I was apprehensive as I looked through the program and saw that a large majority of the cast were either still in high school or middle school, or had recently graduated from high school. I worried that this might mean a high school quality production, and the fact that I was there for the first preview night which was described as a "first dress rehearsal" caused me to worry even more. My worries quickly faded as the show began.
The youthful energy of the cast, combined with the upbeat version of "Go Tell it on the Mountain", skillfully performed with strong voices and enthusiasm, set my mind at ease. Although this high energy and pacing did not necessarily continue throughout the show, it was an indicator of the quality demanded of this production.
Any technical issues I witnessed during this preview are sure to be corrected as they were small and did not detract from a positive experience.
The set, designed by Kathi Baker, consisted mostly of the dining area of the restaurant owned by Ebony Scrooge. To the left were entry doors to the restaurant. On the right were doors to the kitchen and a small office for Scrooge. On the far right of the stage, there was a small set revealing the dining room of the Cratchet home, decorated for Christmas.
Occasionally, the ramp leading to the stage on the far left was utilized to represent the neighborhood outside the restaurant. The space was used well and required very little changes between scenes.
I especially enjoyed the set transformation in the first act, as Francis brought his friends in to decorate the restaurant for Christmas.
Each had a purpose, yet were completely natural as they sang "Deck the Halls" and revitalized the look of the restaurant. I was sad and a little confused to see the table decorations go missing during the last half of the show.
Costuming, by Christie Hernandez, was appropriate for the modern day time period. During the Ghost Dance the costumes for half of the dancers were striking, consisting of black, hooded robes with white, expressionless masks. The contrast between the stark white of the masks with the hooded robes added to the overall impact of the dance itself.
Some dancers did not have masks, instead having their faces painted white, which was lost in the lighting of the theater. The effect of the choreography would be enhanced if all dancers wore the masks. The costuming for the ghost of Marcus Jacobs was done exceptionally well. However, the chains occasionally became distracting.
Choreography by JuNene K was interesting and beautiful. The aforementioned Ghost Dance was my favorite dance of the evening. One particularly poignant dance, called Jenny's Dance, depicted the afterlife of young Jenny Cratchet, and was beautiful and full of meaning, although it seemed to last slightly longer than the situation called for.
Lighting, designed by Mark Pearson, was sometimes slow to illuminate, but on a preview night this is often the case. One curious decision was to include a video of the first scene the Ghost of Christmas Past showed to Ebony. This was accomplished through the use of a screen at the back of the set. On this night, the video was not ready to play when needed and the audience had to watch the process of the computer being prepared before the video played. Again, since this was a preview night, I would expect that the timing on this will be perfected for the remainder of the run.
The video itself depicted the story of young Ebony and her mother one Christmas Day. The performance by Francesca Nelle was wonderful and I found myself wishing this vignette had been played out on stage in a corner of the restaurant, which is where the scene was supposed to take place.
The music in this show was familiar and interesting. Often performed by the ensemble, the arrangements were given a modern feel, and the enthusiasm of the performers coupled with the music itself, gave me a feeling of being privy to something great. Indeed, witnessing the talent from the young performers on the stage as well as by the more seasoned performers was a unique experience. Musical Director, Jon Raveneau, also had a cameo appearance as the violinist during the song "What Child is This?" with a solo by Bryan Banks. Banks' strong vocal, along with the talent of Raveneau made this piece especially pleasing.
One of the original songs, "Burned", by Jon Raveneau and performed by the Ghost of Christmas Present, portrayed by LaDarius Walker, was especially memorable. Another favorite of the evening was "This Christmas", by Vincent Poag. I had never heard the song before and it had a timely message, especially in light of recent events our country has experienced. Its sweet message of forgiveness and being together was expertly delivered by Ariana Cook in the role of Ebony Scrooge.
Cook did an outstanding job portraying a single, successful restaurateur whose only concern was money. She simply could not understand how anyone could be happy and poor. The moments on stage when Cook had to deliver meaning without speech were full of expression and revealed the reflection occurring in her mind that would lead to the transformation.
Francis Scrooge, played by Bryan Banks, was portrayed as a positive young man who truly cared about his aunt and wanted nothing more than to bring Christmas back into her life. Banks occasionally delivered his lines a little too quickly, making it hard to catch everything, but overall he did a great job.
Christie Hernandez portrayed the overworked and underpaid Roberta Cratchet well. Jamal Sterling took what could have been the forgettable role of John Cratchet and added depth to the character during one scene when he, as a paramedic, questioned God about the reasons why good people die when others, like Ebony Scrooge, are allowed to live. Dennis Raveneau as the ghost of Marcus Jacobs was convincing and appropriately Shakespearean when lamenting the wasting of his life.
LaDarius Walker, as the lead caroler and the Ghost of Christmas Present, clearly enjoyed his roles. Whether singing or entering as a pregnant-looking Santa Claus, his timing always allowed for appropriate audience appreciation and comedic relief. His energy carried through whenever he was on stage.
The ensemble had a large part of the action in the show, between small parts or singing in the choir, but I especially enjoyed the short news stories delivered by Dominique Hunter. His comedic timing and news anchor characterization added a facet to the performance that was both enjoyable and memorable.
This production of Ebony Scrooge was an opportunity to revisit an old standard, when it comes to Christmas fare, without feeling like I'd seen it already. The energy of the cast and the dedication to quality demonstrated throughout the show made this a refreshing change from the usual holiday show.
Crossover Arts Theatre at the DeSoto Corner Theater
211 East Pleasant Run Road. DeSoto, Texas
Plays through December 30th
Tickets are $10.00 for adults, $5.00 for seniors and students
Shows are Friday and Saturday at 7:00 pm, Saturday and Sunday matinee at 3:00 pm (no matinee on December 29) There will be one morning show on December 28 at 10:00am
Call 972-230-9250 or 817-449-6739 for more information or to purchase tickets. Tickets can also be purchased online a