Monday, November 24, 2008

Scrooge and Three Spirits

*A Christmas Carol: The Musical* (partial review)

We’ve all heard the Scrooge story, so you’d better do it up right, give it some added value.
Director Troy Nickerson’s production at Spokane Civic Theatre (through Dec. 20) chooses the whiz-bang route for dressing up A Christmas Carol: unexpected entrances, surprises with lighting and sound, an emphasis on spectacle throughout.
Lynn Ahrens and Alan Menken’s musical Christmas Carol is less Scrooge-centric than special-effects-centric. The oohs and ahhs aren’t about the injustice of the Cratchits’ plight; they’re about the sound and lights. Some of the social-justice theme drains away, but there’s compensation in all the wonderful and unexpected things that are happening onstage. We keep getting reminded, in other words, about how things could be — but only if we conquer the selfish Scrooge inside us all and open our hearts instead. It’s a pretty vision of what Christmas should be.
The set, costumes, special effects, choreography and direction in Nickerson’s show are all exceptional.
Patrick McHenry-Kroetch may be the tallest Scrooge on record, which makes him all the more menacing to the ragamuffin boys who extend their tin cups toward him, asking politely for handouts. McHenry-Kroetch shuffles his feet like a codger and cringes comically behind bedposts, but he’s an observer on the periphery for much of the night.
As for the final tableau, with Tiny Tim hoisted aloft, waving his cap and wishing blessings on us all, and with Scrooge’s upturned face, radiant with the zeal of a man newly converted to compassion — it gets me every time.

(For the full review, check out Wednesday's *Inlander.* Photo: Heidi Gnos Kuban, David Gigler and Ryan Patterson as Spirits Past, Present and Future; in foreground, as Scrooge, Patrick McHenry-Kroetch)

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