Reviewed by Tony Annicone
The Hanover Theatre’s holiday show this year is the 10th Anniversary production of “A Christmas Carol” which is an annual favorite. This musical version of this well known holiday tale was adapted and directed by Troy Siebels. “A Christmas Carol” is a timeless story that still resonates with people of all ages and carries a message that is as genuine and poignant now as it was when it was first written back in 1843. This splendid musical version captures the true spirit and meaning of the holiday season for everyone.
Jeremy Lawrence returns in triumph for his 6th time of playing Scrooge. Audiences are extremely thrilled that he is returning to this iconic role once again. Troy directs this year’s presentation of Hanover Theatre’s favorite holiday show once again and has a cast of 30 performers. The well known tale of curmudgeonly Ebenezer Scrooge who is visited by the ghosts of Jacob Marley, Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come who hope to change his destiny and to save his soul. Audiences are taken on a strange and magical journey with Scrooge that helps him regain his joy for the true meaning of Christmas once more. The combination of Troy’s, musical director, Timothy Evans and choreographer Ilyse Robbins hard work, create a terrific retelling of this classic tale. They are moved to laughter and tears at all the appropriate moments. Bravo once again on a job very well done! It is my seventh year of reviewing this show and it grows more meaningful every year.
Troy keeps the action of each scene flowing smoothly from start to finish. He has the cast sing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” as snow falls on the performers and the audience creating a perfect ending to this festive show. The special effects are dazzling and amazing. Troy not only blocks and directs this show marvelously, he uses a grown up Timothy Cratchit to narrate it. Ilyse choreographs it and creates high energy dances that captivate the audience including group numbers, “Pattapan”, the show stopping “Boar’s Head Carol and “Wassail”, as well as the opening “Deck the Halls”, the Fezziwig dance, “Greensleeves”, Fred’s party waltz and in “Ding Dong, Merrily on High.” Troy has a keen eye for both comic and dramatic situations which brings out the best in this cast. Although there are many comic moments in the show, it is the pathos that captures your heart during the Christmas season, tugging on your heartstrings and bringing tears to your eyes when they happen. Tim Evans plays a Wurlitzer Organ and taught the talented cast the beautiful harmonies of these Christmas numbers with the choral effect being amazing.
Jeremy delivers a tour-de-force performance once again as this iconic character. He makes the part fresh and new each year. Jeremy mines each layer of this character fabulously from start to finish. His comic moments are brilliant and include yelling at the caroler and the two solicitors. He’s also funny when he boxes his robe. However it is the dramatic scenes that are most memorable including Fan’s death, the break up with Belle, the witnessing of his own dead body under a blanket, the death of Tiny Tim and in his transformation that the pathos pours out into the audience. It leaves them and me in tears. His dance of joyous rapture when he realizes he’s alive on Christmas Day is stunning to behold. Bravo on your sixth time as Scrooge.
The four ghosts do a splendid job in this show, too. Marc Geller is dynamic as Jacob Marley. He scares not only Scrooge but the whole audience as he appears on the scene. His heavy chains fall down from the ceiling with an ominous clang. Then Marley flies up to the top of Scrooge’s bed and around the stage with colorful lighting and a heavy fog. He hovers over the bed warning him to repair his miserly ways or suffer Marley’s fate these past seven years. Marc’s delivery of the lines is frightening to behold. The special flying effects are by ZFX, a California based company.
The first of the next three ghosts is lead by Tori Heinlein as Christmas Past. She is a striking blonde with a beautiful voice which is heard in “The Holly and the Ivy” and “In the Bleak Midwinter.” In the first she does a dance with three girls and then chides Scrooge on his bad behavior. This is as Scrooge watches his younger self enjoying Christmas when his sister, Fan comes to take him home and when he falls in love with Belle. Tori’s strong line delivery is powerful on his journey of redemption. It is her seventh year with this musical, having started when she was 8 and is now 17. Both Maggie Mussler who plays Fan and Tyler Keogh who plays Young Scrooge do a wonderful job in their roles. Brian Hunter does a nice turn especially in the break up scene as he returns as Young Ebenezer. Alison Russo is marvelous as Belle, playing it with a great deal of warmth and charm. Their break up scene is gut wrenching when she hands the ring back to him. I have been reviewing Alison since she was a high school student in 2009. The jolly employer and his wife are played excellently by Steve Gagliastro and Kathy St. George. They shine as Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig as they lead the party festivities with gusto. Steve and Kathy bring the comic relief the show needs at this point. He returns for his seventh time as Fezziwig. Kathy’s comic gem is when she yells at the guests to be quiet so her husband can make a toast. Their song and dance to “Wassail” stops the show with hilarity as Scrooge and Christmas Past dance up a storm with them. A strong vocalist in this scene and in the show is Mark Linehan as Dick Wilkins. Act 1 ends marvelously with a tableau of spots on The Fezziwigs, Fan and Young Scrooge, Belle and Young Ebenezer, the narrator and Scrooge back in his bed.
Christopher Chew returns in triumph as Christmas Present. He spreads good cheer throughout London. The harmonies and power of “The Boar’s Head Carol.” Also the opening of Act 2 is more comic with all the men appearing magically around, under and above the bed. He teaches Scrooge how to get along with his fellow men and uses Scrooge’s words against him. He cajoles Scrooge when showing him the plight of the Cratchit family and how Fred is spending Christmas Day. Andrew Crowe plays Fred, Scrooge’s nephew excellently. He displays his strong tenor voice with gorgeous brunette, Laura DeGiacomo who plays Millie and has a terrific soprano voice. She is playing this role for her 10th time and has been with the show from the very beginning. Her voice soars in “Tiny Little Child” and she tugs on your heartstrings with it. Andrew also has some comic moments in the opening when he encourages the young caroler to annoy his cantankerous uncle. The Ghost of the Future is a giant menacing puppet who scares Scrooge by showing him what awaits him if he doesn’t reform his wayward ways.
The narrator is played by Bill Mootos who returns for his ninth year. He delivers a strong performance in any role I’ve reviewed him in. Bill commands the stage in this role. Tyler Belmon tackles the role of Bob, giving him many more comic moments to portray. Tyler also displas his strong dancing prowess, too. Annie Kerins returns for her ninth year and shines as Mrs. Crachit. Her accent is flawless. Other family members include Emma Fiore who plays Tiny Tim, Zoe Stewart as Martha, Colin Siebiels as Peter and Grace Olah as Belinda. Other comic performers are Stephanie Carlson as Mrs. Dilber who delivers Scrooge’s gruel, tries sell Scrooge’ bed clothes and Marc Geller who is fabulous as Old Joe. So for a fantastic production of this well known tale, be sure to catch “A Christmas Carol” right here at the historic Hanover Theatre before Scrooge and his compatriots fly out of town for good. Run do not walk to the box office before the run is completely sold out. It will definitely get you into the Christmas spirit for people of all ages. Tell them Tony sent you.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL (15 to 23 December)
The Hanover Theatre, 2 Southbridge St, Worcester, MA
1(877)571-SHOW or www.thehanovertheatre.org