Reviewed by Tony Annicone
The Hanover Theatre’s holiday presentation this year is the ninth annual production of “A Christmas Carol” adapted and directed by Troy Siebels. The historic Hanover Theatre is a jewel of a theatre hidden away in Worcester and is breathtakingly gorgeous and splendiferous. It first opened in 1904 as a burlesque theatre, in 1926 as a movie theatre and in 2008 as a gorgeous show place that needs to be discovered by one and by all. The Theatre seats 2300 people and 19,000 patrons discovered this musical version of the show last year. Troy once again has a huge cast of 30. The underlying themes of charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence found in “A Christmas Carol” are universal and are relevant to people of all religions and backgrounds.
In his version, Troy uses a grown up Tim Cratchit as the narrator of this familiar tale of miserly, curmudgeon, Ebenezer Scrooge. It is the classic tale of this stingy, miser on the road to his redemption. Originally written in the winter of 1843, this show still resonates with audiences, one hundred and seventy three years later. Scrooge is visited by his dead partner, Jacob Marley who has been dead for seven years on Christmas Eve as well as the ghosts of the Past, Present and Future. who hope to change his destiny and save his soul. This marvelous musical adaptation is full of many special effects, timeless music, colorful sets and gorgeous costumes. This musical treat follows Scrooge on his strange and magical journey, where he finally discovers the true Christmas spirit at last. The combination of Troy’s, music director, Timothy Evans and choreographer Ilyse Robbins hard work, creates a phenomenal retelling of this classic story. A standing ovation is their reward on a job extremely well done. Bravo!
Troy obtains laughter and some tears on Scrooge’s journey to redemption by blending the dramatic and comic moments together splendidly. Troy keeps the action of the show flowing smoothly from scene to scene. He ends the show with the cast singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” as the snow falls on both the performers and the audience. Timothy plays a Wurlitzer organ and picked the most lovely Christmas carols for the cast to sing in this version. The dance numbers by Ilyse stop the show with their expert execution of this talented cast, especially in the show’s opening “Deck the Halls”, the Fezziwig dance scene, “Greensleeves” as Fred’s party waltz and in “Ding Dong, Merrily on High.” The two other marvelous numbers are “Pattapan” and “Wassail” as well as the show stopping Act 2 opening men’s chorus dance in “The Boar’s Head Carol” which is breathtaking. I recently reviewed Ilyse’s current musical “Mame” at Stoneham Theatre which she directed as well as choreographed. The incredible London sets are by James Krozner while the fabulous, gorgeous authentic costumes are by Gail Astrid Buckley.
Jeremy Lawrence returns in triumph for his fifth year of playing Ebenezer Scrooge. He plays this miserly curmudgeon excellently and commands the stage in this role. Jeremy excels in the comic scenes especially in “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” when he yells at the caroler as well as when he yells at the two solicitors. He’s also funny when he boxes his robe. However it is in the dramatic scenes that are the most memorable including Fan’s death, the break-up with Belle, the witnessing the dead body of himself under a blanket, the death of Tiny Tim and in his transformation that the pathos pours out to the audience. It leaves them and myself in tears. His exuberance when he awakens on Christmas morning is stunning to behold as he dances with joyous rapture. The audience learns that Scrooge has become a better man by learning from the past, present and the future. Bravo on your fifth year as this iconic character!
The four Ghosts do a marvelous job in this show, too. Marc Gellar is wonderful as Jacob Marley. He scares not only Scrooge but every person in the audience as he appears on the scene. The chains fall from the ceiling with a clang to the floor. Marley flies to the top of Scrooge’s bed and around the stage with fog and colorful lighting. He hovers over Scrooge’s bed with huge chains and warns him to reform his miserly ways or suffer Marley’s fate these past seven years. Marc’s delivery of these lines is frightening to behold. The spectacular flying effects are handled by California based company ZFX. Christmas Past is portrayed by Tori Heinlein, a beautiful blonde who has a lovely singing voice in her two songs, “The Holly and the Ivy” and “In the Bleak Midwinter.” In the first number she does a dance with two girls. She chides Scrooge as he watches his younger self enjoying and loving Christmas with his sister, Fan when she arrives to take him home and again at Fezziwig’s party when he fell in love with Belle. Tori’s strong line delivery is powerful as she takes Scrooge on his journey of enlightenment. This is her sixth time being in this show. She started it when she was 8 and is now 16.
Young Scrooge is wonderfully played by Devin DeAngelis as is Abigail Harris as little Fan. Brian Hunter is wonderful as Young Ebenezer especially in the break up scene. Lea Nardi is terrific as Belle, playing it with a great deal of warmth and charm. Their break up scene is gut wrenching to observe as she hands him back the engagement ring. The jolly employer and his wife are splendidly played by Steve Gagliastro and Shonna Cirone. They shine as Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig. They lead the party festivities with gusto, bringing the necessary comic relief at this point of the show. Steve is fantastic, having seen him perform this role for the sixth time. Shonna is hilarious especially when she yells at the guests to be quiet so her husband can make a toast. Their song and dance “Wassail” stop the show with merriment as Scrooge and Christmas Past join in it. Also the end of Act 1 is perfectly portrayed with spot lights on a tableau of the Fezziwigs, young Scrooge and Fan, young Ebenezer and Belle and the Narrator with Scrooge back in his bed.
Christmas Present is fabulously played by the multitalented Christopher Chew. I reviewed him before as Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady” last year and the title role of Sweeney Todd in 2014 at Lyric Stage in Boston. Christopher is the dominant presence in this show while he spreads good cheer. He teaches Scrooge an important lesson on how to treat his fellow man and uses Scrooge’s words against him. The Ghost cajoles Scrooge while he shows him the plight of the Cratchit family and how his nephew, Fred is spending Christmas day. Andrew Crowe is marvelous as Fred. He brings a comic touch to the role, infusing him with personality and energy. He is hilarious when he puts more coal in Scrooge’s heater and is comical during the party scene. His wife, Millie is excellently played by gorgeous, brunette, Laura DeGiacomo. They have some clever banter during the party scene. Laura’s fabulous soprano voice is heard in the tear jerking, “Little Tiny Child” in the death of Tiny Tim sequence. She and Andrew have terrific chemistry together. Two of their best friends in the show, Topper and Suzannah are excellently played by Kevin Hadfield who returns in triumph to this role and Alison Russo whom I have been reviewing since she was in high school back in 2009. They are marvelous in these comic roles as well as being excellent vocalists and dancers. The Ghost of the Future is enormous and is dressed in a huge black robe. This puppet like creature scares the crap out of the audience as he shows Scrooge the fate that will befall him unless he repents his terrible ways. The Ghost accomplishes this by having Scrooge observe the Old Joe scene, the death of Tiny Tim and Scrooge’s own gravestone.
The narrator is terrifically played by Bill Mootos for the eighth time. He is remarkable as the grown up Tim who weaves the story together and tugs on your heartstrings when he reveals he is the adult Tim Cratchit. Bill is perfect as this character and commands the stage in this role. The Cratchit family members do a remarkable job, too. Tyler Belmon as Bob handles the comic moments trying to put a piece of coal in the heater in the first scene, laughing nervously and being shocked by Scrooge’s transformation in the last scene. He does a nice job in the death of Tiny Tim sequence. Annie Kerins returns for the eighth time as Mrs. Cratchit and she shines in this role, as the caring, doting mother. She and Tyler display their powerful singing voices and dancing prowess, too. Annie is very comical when she won’t toast the old miser but becomes properly dramatic and chokes you up during the Tim death scene. Other family members include Zoe Ann Stewart as Martha, Madi Shaer as Belinda and Carter Siebels as Peter. Carter is comical when he begs Bob to carve the goose and then comments on how delectable it looks. First grader Gavin Bergman plays Tiny Tim wonderfully and delivers the “God Bless Us, Everyone” with gusto. Other comic performers include Stephanie Carlson as Mrs. Dilber, who delivers Scrooge’s gruel and sells his bed clothes, Marc Gellar also plays Old Joe and Amiee Doherty as the laundress. A word of praise to the whole cast and crew on a job very well done. So to get into the Christmas spirit, be sure to catch “A Christmas Carol” at the beautiful Hanover Theatre. Tell them Tony sent you. Run do not walk to the box office before this show sells out completely.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL (16 to 23 December)
Hanover Theatre, 2 Southbridge Street, Worcester, MA
1(877)571-SHOW or www.thehanovertheatre.org