Sunday, December 4, 2011

review - Mrs. Scrooge The Musical

Mrs. Scrooge The Musical
book by & directed by Diane Namm
music by Robert Agis; lyrics by Diane Namm with Ed Cha (with 2 additional songs by Terence Davis)
Santa Monica Playhouse December 8-11; Highways, SM December 16-18, 22-24

At Christmas I do my best to avoid seeing Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Bah, humbug! I've seen so many theatre and film productions of it and even played parts in it as an actor, and as timeless and wonderful as it is, people forget that there are other rarely done Christmas plays and musicals just begging to be mounted. I made an exception this year, went to Mrs. Scrooge The Musical in Santa Monica, and am so glad I did. There is something about Diane Namm's script and the imaginative execution of it that creates a thoroughly captivating experience - its tunes, the actors, twists in the story... and the overall contemporary upbeat ambiance. It's a joyful, tuneful ride.

I don't want to give too much away, but Scrooge (D. Kevin Kelly) takes a backseat to his wife Mrs. Scrooge (Kelly Derouin), a corporate executive who believes herself "perfectly entitled", thereby mistreating her assistant Miss Cratchit (Heather Cadarette) and putting a damper on everything Christmas. A Christmas Carol in reverse, it is she, therefore, who does the hating, as he attempts to lead a somewhat normal life. Namm has ingeniously interwoven into the plot, borrowing from It's a Wonderful Life, a Teen Angel (David Burrus) who longs to earn his wings, and must do so by converting Mrs. Scrooge. There are also evil ghosts headed by the Ghost of Christmas Future (Jake Hamilton Lewis, also playing Mrs. Scrooge's father) who plot all things ominous in the story.

There's some snappy choreography (Evie Hutton), many delightful tunes composed by Namm and Ed Cha, and even great audience interaction with the characters. Chris Stone has designed an ultra modern set which serves interior/exterior venues efficiently, including two rear projection screens for various colorful holiday pictures, and Rosalie Alvarez has designed some lovely costumes. Namm's direction is fast paced and bright throughout, never letting us forget that though this is a fable, it's one to be ultimately savored.

The cast are sublime. Derouin is appropriately stern and obnoxious as Mrs. Scrooge. She also has a winningly beautiful singing voice. Cadarette as the loyal servant Cratchit is an equally adept actress and singer. Jake Hamilton Lewis is delightfully dextrous as the Lead Ghost and David Burrus' in.your.face attitude as Teen Angel is a winner. Amber Morse is terribly fetching as Head Angel and deserves a number all by herself, as does Kelly as the downtrodden Mr. Scrooge/Charles Dickens. Bravo as well to Asher Bank as Tiny Tim, and to ensemble members: Lee Pitts, Katy Tabb, Claiborne Thomas Jr., Jesse Turtz, Sarah Ann Vail and Frank Weidner. This is a super talented ensemble!

Go see Mrs. Scrooge The Musical presented by West of Broadway! It's a 60-minute original crowd pleaser like no other. You will have a ball!

5 out of 5 stars

(Photo credit: Travis Smith-Evans).

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