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He Says: A Christmas Carol Haunts With Cookies and a Feast Delivered from the Heavens

He Says: A Christmas Carol Haunts With Cookies and a Feast Delivered from the Heavens

So let the bells chime and the lanterns be lit. They hang all about, bringing warmth and joy to the crowd. It is Christmas time on old Broadway, courtesy of a lovely Old Vic production now playing at the Lyceum Theatre. This version of A Christmas Carol brings treats and cookies all the way over from across the pond. It’s sweetly tossed, gifting smiles to the crowds of spectators, particularly when we are graced with the glorious presence of Andrea Martin (Broadway’s Pippin) and LaChanze (Broadway’s Summer) wandering through the aisles pre-show smiling and engaged, enjoying being the bearers of these yummy baked goods (although mass produced and giving the audience a whole lot of packaging to make crinkly noises throughout the two act play with music).

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Chris Hoch as Marley & Campbell Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge of A Christmas Carol. Photo: Joan Marcus

The ghost story of Christmas cheer and a reminder to love and celebrate at this time of year as adapted most inventively by Jack Thorne (ATC’s Sunday), mostly hits its holiday stride. Even though not the quickest or most focused one, it gives a new incantation to the secrets hidden in the floor boards of the theatrical. It is kindly directed with a wise gaze to the simplicity of the meaning by Matthew Warchus (Broadway’s Groundhog Day) who guides the piece forward through a night of three visitations with casual cheer. It’s a charming iconic tale to remind us of the joy in giving rather than receiving, and to step back from the consumerism of the holiday. It exists to reframe our holiday celebrations to be more thankful for the blessings that we have at our fingertips, if we are wide awake enough to look.

A Christmas CarolDirected By Matthew Warchus
Adapted By Jack Thorne
Andrea Martin, LaChanze, Campbell Scott of A Christmas Carol. Photo: Joan Marcus

Campbell Scott (Broadway’s Noises Off) stars as Ebenezer Scrooge, the miser at the middle of this tale of haunting. He oddly isn’t given a bed or a chair to sit or lay down on (which I think is a glaring omission) but the esthetic is bare and minimal, at least in the middle of the four door center of the stage. With well formulated set and costumes designed by Rob Howell (Royal Court/Broadway’s The Ferryman), lighting gracefully orchestrated by Hugh Vanstone (Broadway’s The Height of the Storm) and sound delicately designed by Simon Baker (OldVic/Public/Broadway’s Girl From the North Country), the story, even with the piles at the side and the thousands of lanterns hanging overhead, is stripped down to the minimum. In that sparseness, there is beauty and charm, especially in the visions of the past, brought to us by the phenomenal cockeyed Martin as the Ghost of Christmas Past, and the Jamaican-tinged LaChanze at the Ghost of Christmas Present. It’s engaging a solid emotionally, but somewhere in the multi-figured Future, the pleasure seeking inventiveness gets convoluted.

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Campbell Scott & LaChanze as The Ghost of Christmas Present of A Christmas Carol. Photo: Joan Marcus

But let’s be honest, it’s a tale we all love, and with the singing of 12 of the most cherished Christmas carols, including “Joy to the World,” “Silent Night,” and “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear”, thanks to composer/orchestrator/arranger Christopher Nightingale (West End/Broadway’s Matilda), music coordinator Howard Joines (Broadway’s Beetlejuice), and music director Michael Gacetta (Broadway’s King Kong), the feast flown in is a joy, and the meaning of Christmas isn’t lost on Ebenezer, nor any of us. The tale of redemption, brimming with Christmas spirit, is by no means perfect, nor is it without holes and twists that might make Charles Dickens squirm in his seat. But charity and love is a much needed commodity these days, and this version of A Christmas Carol is musically overflowing with goodness. And these cookies aren’t too bad either (just don’t open the packages while the ghost story is in full haunting mode. It’s disruptive).

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Campbell Scott with Andrea Martin, LaChanze & Rachel Prather of A Christmas Carol. Photo: Joan Marcus

For more, go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Broadway
@#frontmezzjunkies

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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