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It is time to get in the holiday spirit once again! For many theatre companies, this means mounting a dramatization of Charles Dickens' timeless tale A Christmas Carol. This year, Matthews Playhouse of the Performing Arts has produced a unique version of the story told in musical form.
Scrooge: The Musical adds merry tunes reminiscent of Christmas carols to enliven this frequently told story about the miserly curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge as ghostly visits transform him into a man filled with the Christmas spirit. As always, the Matthews Playhouse community did not disappoint. Opening night for this production was busy and bustling with Christmas cheer. This kind of support is especially heartwarming around this season, as holiday-themed performances are equally important as any other Christmas tradition. Matthews Playhouse certainly delivered Saturday's audiences the experience they sought.
The Fullwood Theatre, which houses Matthews Playhouse, was invitingly cheerful for this production. From Christmas lights to a picturesque holiday-themed backdrop, the venue further captured the production's spirit. Once inside the theater, audiences could look upon the scenic elements that reflected a Currier and Ives print. Marty Wolff's design proved both practical and magical through this production. Clever repurposing of the central set and added details like flickering lamp posts created an environment that encapsulated the sense of tradition that many audiences seek when they go see A Christmas Carol. These scenic elements worked well in tandem with Jeffrey Childs' light design. The lighting was truly the star of this production. The variety of textures and dimensionality provided a more immersive story for the audience, even allowing for a good amount of hidden technical elements. Many productions struggle with the more fantastical elements of this story, like creating realistic spirits and facilitating quick transitions between scenes. The efficacy of the lighting and scenic design was nearly flawless in Scrooge, keeping us immersed in the story without distracting technical malfunctions. Yvette Moten's costume design is not to be missed either. Part of the wonder of this story are its historical costumes. The silhouettes in this production were quite accurate to the era and added another interesting layer to the visual effect. Choreographer Sarah Freeman often took opportunities to showcase the beauty of the costumes, which was much appreciated by the audience.
Geof Knight brought a cartoonish zeal to the iconic Ebeneezer Scrooge that was delightful to watch. Too often, portrayals of Scrooge can get bogged down by the stale bitterness that's been attached to the character's image. Knight did not fall into that trap. Instead, he performed Scrooge with as much honesty as he did enthusiasm, with a pretty convincing English dialect to boot. Other notable performances include that of Sarah Baumgardner as the Ghost of Christmas Past and Jeff Powell as the Ghost of Christmas Present. Baumgardner's light vibrato in "Love While You Can" reminds one of classic holiday songs of decades past. She brought a true kindness and warmth to the role, needed to evoke the light of the character. Powell, on the other hand, brought humor and liveliness to his portrayal, which worked well following Baumgardner's performance. His song with Scrooge at the end of Act I was a perfect transition to intermission, leaving the audience buzzing with questions about what will happen next…while perhaps humming the catchy tune to themselves.
It can be difficult to make such a traditional Christmas story fresh for audiences. However, Matthews Playhouse has managed to create both a sense of tradition and wonder in their production of Scrooge. The added musical elements only serve to brighten this tale, making it suitable for younger audience members who will surely enjoy the colorful costumes and lively dancing. With the added vigor of dance and harmonies, adults and children alike will enjoy the warmth of this reinvigorated classic. Matthews Playhouse has succeeded in bringing a much-needed piece of holiday joy to its community.
Scrooge: The Musical continues through Sunday, December 18. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.