Monday, November 30, 2015

reviews - A CHRISTMAS CAROL - Arizona Broadway Theatre

James Rio and Jamie Parnell
Photo Courtesy of Arizona Broadway Theatre /
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through December 27th.

"... A Christmas Carol: The Musical... under the direction of Joseph Martinez..a brazen, yuletide extravaganza, a dazzling variation of a grandstanding, seasonal Variety show where the songs, the dancing and all the eye-popping special effects with twinkly lights are used in service to tell a ghost story of Christmas. Beginning with the atmospheric sounds of clanging chimes, ABT’s plush, Christmas red curtains rise, revealing Paul Bridgeman’s town square set design of a picture-book, snowy London, adapted for ABT by Michaela Lynne Stein.  The whole look has a similar feel and appearance of a European holiday Pantomime ...This production doesn’t reflect Dickens, but what it does is take that familiar story of ghosts and redemption, removes the cold, bleak, biting atmosphere of an unforgiving London and presents it with bright, sparkling colors, songs, and large scale dance sequences played out to a picturesque, nostalgic Victorian backdrop that never really was.  A Christmas Carol: The Musical may have little to do with Dickens, but it has everything to do with showbiz.... James Rio as Ebenezer Scrooge...makes an effectively imposing figure of a neatly-dressed miser, plus he sings well... Richard Koons plays the jovial Ghost of Christmas Present as if Santa himself had arrived...while best and most amusing of all is Renee Kathleen Koher as the Ghost of Christmas Past, played not so much like the androgynous man-child of the book but as an excitable Grecian Goddess finding fun at every turn...Technical credits are, as expected, of a high order.  Amanda Gran must have worked overtime on the wigs, Mark 4Man’s six-member band sounds like a full-rounded orchestra, while Kurtis W. Overby’s lively choreography fills the wide stage and makes the dance at Fezziwigs’s ball appear like the grandest of all affairs in London.  Tim Monson’s lighting coupled with Will Pickens’ sound are used to maximum effect throughout, particularly when Jacob Marley (Michael O’Brien under ghostly makeup and buried in chains) rises out of the ground like a smoky, Las Vegas magic trick and brings all those other ghosts out of the woodwork to haunt Scrooge with the humorous song and dance number Link by Link....If you’re a Dickens purist, then this is not your show, but it was never meant to be.  It’s a song and dance holiday extravaganza with Dickens as a starting point...." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

From one-person shows to full blown musicals, Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" has spawned dozens of different theatrical adaptations...Arizona Broadway Theatre's production of the 1994 musical adaptation of the tale is full of life and emotion that gets to the heart of the timeless tale of redemption.  Dickens' tale of the miserly and selfish businessman Scrooge shows how visits from four ghosts, including his former business partner Marley, help him see the mistakes of his past and better understand the less fortunate people around him, especially his employee Bob Cratchit and Cratchit's young crippled son Tiny Tim. ...Conceived by Madison Square Garden in 1994 as competition for Radio City Music Hall's Christmas Spectacular,...this adaptation, with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and a book by Ahrens and Mike Ockrent, sticks close to Dickens' original story structure, incorporating many direct lines of dialogue from Dickens' novel.... But there is also plenty of razzle dazzle added in, with elaborate dance sequences, in order to turn it into a full blown Broadway-style musical...while it is mainly through sung, with virtually non-stop music throughout and very few moments between songs for applause, it still manages to effectively incorporate all of the major characters and plot points from the book. ...Menken and Ahren's score is top notch, with interwoven melodies, themes and songs, several of which are reprised later at appropriate moments....Ahren and Ockrent's book includes several comic moments that help balance, but never overpower, the emotional story of Scrooge's journey to redemption. ...ABT's creative aspects and cast are just about perfect, with James Rio giving a fine performance as the heartless Scrooge....Director Joseph Martinez does a very good job of staging the almost always moving scenes with a grace that allows the important moments to land. Kurtis W. Overby provides a decent amount of well thought out choreography throughout and the two work together seamlessly to ensure that the many large group numbers never seem muddy.... The exquisite costume designs by Martha Clarke, with additional designs by Lottie Dixon and Amanda Gran's wig designs, create some stunning effects most especially for Marley, his fellow ghosts, and the stone angels in the cemetery scene. Since the score is virtually non-stop, having a great music director is key and Mark 4Man provides his usual superb direction. ...There have been many adaptations of A Christmas Carol, yet I doubt any achieve the result of this musical version, which wisely adds humor and several showstopping songs to elevate the tale of Scrooge in to a big, brassy Broadway musical. While purists may have a problem with some of the changes, it is definitely an entertaining and memorable musical version of Dickens' story. With impressive creative elements that include some great special effects, a wonderful cast that does justice to Dickens' characters, and clear, well thought out direction and choreography, ABT's A Christmas Carol is a wonderful presentation of this magical adaptation of the beloved story and the perfect kick-off to the holiday season."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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