Tuesday, December 6, 2016

reviews - TWIST YOUR DICKENS - Phoenix Theatre

David Dickinson and Robert Kolby Harper
Photo by Reg Madison Photography / Phoenix 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 24th.

"When the set is a street in Victorian London and there’s a barbershop quartet singing in front of Scrooge & Marley’s, you know that what follows will hardly be business as usual. That’s the opening to...Twist Your Dickens, a consistently funny alternative to A Christmas Carol...Scrooge is just as miserly as he ever was, and, yes, those same three ghosts visit Scrooge overnight to try to instill some redemption by showing the money-lender his past, present and future, but it doesn’t unfold in quite the way Dickens intended...Scrooge (Robert Kolby Harper) laments that his partner, Jacob Marley, has inconveniently died at the height of foreclosure time, and Bob Cratchit (David Dickinson) still wants to celebrate the 25th with his family because it’s Christmas Day. “I don’t care if it’s Jesus’ birthday!” Scrooge declares. Director Matthew Wiener’s already proven deft handling of comedy keeps this cast on its toes as each performer leaps from character to new character, often at the blink of an eye....The show follows the traditional path of having those ghosts visit Scrooge, but the journey is often hi-jacked by skits revolving around the original ending to The Charlie Brown Christmas Special ... and the diversion to the island of misfit toys from Rudolph. ...While the Dickens tale is solid and set in stone...Twist Your Dickens gives its highly talented seven member cast the chance to change things at every opportunity. In addition to Harper and Dickinson there’s also terrific local talent Cathy Dresbach, Gene Ganssle, Kate Haas, Maren Maclean and Kyle Sorrell. ...
It matters little if you’ve never read the original Dickens novel, but for some gags it helps. ...It also helps if you’re familiar with all the TV Christmas specials and a couple of those seasonal classic movies. If not, just go with the flow. It’s all hit and miss, but here’s the difference; delivered with the kind of high manic energy Wiener draws from his cast throughout, plus the broad nature of the whole thing – really, nothing is sacred – even the groaners get laughs. ...But to tell more is to spoil things. The fun is to discover the invention and all the diversions for yourself. In fact, with this kind of show, the less you know going in, the better the surprises; the funnier the show." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"...if you're looking for a different spin on Charles Dickens' classic tale, Phoenix Theatre presents the local premiere of Twist Your Dickens, a holiday show that is part satire, part sketch comedy, and a complete joy. Featuring some of Phoenix's best local actors it is a hilarious, irreverent parody that is a mash up of the classic tale of Scrooge with modern comical references and a dose of ad lib.
...The basic plot still follows Dickens' familiar tale of redemption...Interspersed throughout are characters and symbols from other classic Christmas stories that comment and expand on the Scrooge story. ...The script is a smart parody that not only sends up the well-known story of Scrooge but also adds references to such current events as fracking and recent familiar phrases like Donald Trump's "bad hombres." The Scrooge tale does get left behind at times, especially in the second act where things meander a bit with moments that don't quite mesh...Fortunately, there are many more moments that hit than those that miss and even the misses don't last long. Director Matthew Wiener keeps the hilarity and hijinks at a fever pitch with his well-oiled cast of seven who portray dozens of characters via some split second costume changes that add to the fun. While Robert Kolby Harper is the only one who doesn't play multiple roles, his take on Scrooge is superb and full of nuance; he even includes a bit of drama beneath his many comic moments. ..If there is a downside or unevenness to the show beyond the few comic bits that misfire it is that the male cast members get the biggest parts to play and more to do than the women. Beside Harper, the talented men in the cast include David Dickinson...Gene Ganssle...and Kyle Sorrell, who is superb as both Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Christmas Past. While the men get the biggest parts, the three women in the cast still have plenty of hilarious cameo bits which they deliver with ease and a breakneck speed as they quickly jump in and out of character. Cathy Dresbach, Kate Haas, and Maren Maclean excel in making these numerous parts utterly hilarious. Like the show, Douglas Clarke's simple but smart set design and Gail Wolfenden-Steib's costumes are a perfect blend of the Dickensian period and modern times with plenty of fun comical touches. ...There are several adlibbed moments in the show where the cast members take suggestions from the audience and incorporate them into a few scenes and a song....While not every bit works, this is still a very funny show that delivers some big laughs due to the very game cast who are up for anything and the clear direction that keeps things moving at a fever pitch. With sheer lunacy and extreme dedication, the incredibly talented cast of Phoenix Theatre's Twist Your Dickens make this send up of Christmas classics into zany fun for the holidays." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"...Phoenix Theatre decided to turn a sly eye to the immortal tale and produce Chicago’s Second City developed humorous slam, “Twist Your Dickens.” The hysterical jab at the story includes the familiar characters enacted by a comically adept ensemble who recreate the story with a brightly mocking slant that kept audiences doubled over with laughter opening night.  Much of the humor comes from the wild antics of the acting ensemble who use split second comic timing to make silly and often predictable shenanigans funny.  ...Details would ruin the show for those lucky enough to see it.  Know that pointed local references populate the clever script ...Some of the show’s success is attributable to the delicious comic nonsense director Matthew Weiner adds...and costumes that add their own frivolity. But the real reason for “Twist Your Dickens” triumphant polish is the comic panache of the gifted cast that insert a ribald comic sense to bring off the show’s silliness.  Heading the cast is crafty Robert Kolby Harper as a flagrantly flamboyant and evil Scrooge who experiences a magical transformation into a caring man.  Cathy Dresbach finds endless comic gems from her portrayals of Mrs. Fezziwig and Mrs. Cratchit.  Gene Ganssle parades around as a narrator of sorts along with ripe takes on Fred, Marley, and Fezziwig.  David Dickenson has fun as Bob Cratchit as he accepts lots of rabid razing from Scrooge, and Kyle Sorrell is a masterful Tiny Tim.  Maren Maclean shines as Sister Agatha, and Kate Haas swings as the Ghost of Christmas Present and is a hoot as Belle. If traditional classics aren’t your thing and if you want to laugh at things always revered...“Twist Your Dickens” is for you.  " --Chris Curcio, KBAQ (click here to read the complete review)

COMING SOON - Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)

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