Saturday, November 24, 2018

A Christmas Carol, the Musical—Stumptown Stages—downtown Portland

“What the Dickens…!”




    This classic tale by Dickens, is adapted as a musical for the stage by Alan Menken (music), Lynn Ahrens (lyrics) and Mike Ockrent & Ahrens (book).  It is directed by Stumptown’s Founding Artistic Director, Kirk Mouser, choreographed by Sara Parker and musical direction by Adam Young.  It is playing at the Brunish Theatre (4th floor), 1111 SW Broadway, through December 23rd.  For more information, go to their site at

    This may be the most faithful adaption of this oft-done story of redemption.  Many of Dicken’s original dialogue is included and it stays pretty close to his tale.  There have been many other animated, musical and non-musicals versions of this moving story.  And many Scrooges, including Bill Murray, Michael Caine, George C. Scott, Henry Winkler, Sterling Hayden, Albert Finney, Jim Backus, Jim Carrey, et. al. but the best by far is Alaister Sim in the 1950’s British version.  Perhaps the strangest, but excellent one, was Hayden in the Hallmark Hall of Fame incarnation in the 60’s called, “Carol For Another Christmas,” produced by the United Nations, in part.

    The story should be familiar by now, that of an aging, lonely miser, Ebenezer Scrooge (Gary Wayne Cash), a money-lender, who has been steadily slipping into the abyss of self-pity and loathing, for several years, much to the dismay of his ill-used clerk, Bob Cratchit (Austin Peters), who has a crippled son, Tiny Tim (Carter Christianson).

     But on this fateful Christmas Eve, he is visited by his old, equally-miserly, now deceased partner, Jacob Marley (Mark Pierce), who warns him of dire consequences in the after-life if he doesn’t change his evil ways.  And so, he is offered to view his life in the Past (Kelly Stewart), the Present (Pip Kennedy) and a possible Future (Hannah Sapitan), as his spirit guides, who will lead him.

    He discovers his younger, greedy self (Zachary Johnsen), divesting himself of his lady love, Emily (Josephine McGehee) and sliding toward darkness.  Then he views the outside world of the present, seeing both joy with his well-to-do nephew Fred (Evan Tait) & friends, and Cratchit’s family, poor in dollars, perhaps, but rich in spirit.  Then his future is revealed as pretty dismal if he doesn’t repent…any guesses as to what happens?!

    Much of the dialogues is sung.  Some of the stand-out numbers are “Link by Link” (Pierce), “Lights of Long Ago” (by the amazing, Stewart), the haunting, “A Place Called Home” (Cash, Johnsen, McGehee and Lana Sage), the rousing, “Abundance and Charity” (Kennedy), and the touching, “God Bless Us Everyone” (Company).  And major kudos to Mouser, as this could have been (and probably was) a nightmare to coordinate with the many scene changes but, as always, he has a masterful eye for staging, as well as the casting, as his company is super here.

    Cash is always good in everything I’ve seen him in and an asset to every production.  His Scrooge is more middle-aged than most interpretations, which I liked, as it gives the impression he still has many more years to contribute in a positive way to those around him.  And I was blown away by Stewart, as the Spirit of the Past.  She has an amazing voice and her character was downright charming and someone who, when in her presence, you’d be forced to smile.  She has already accumulated a pretty impressive history on the stage and I predict even more success will come her way!

    Clever set & lighting (Demetri Pavlatos), authentic costumes (Margaret Louise Chapman), top music (Young & Co.), dazzling dance numbers (Parker), spirited direction (Mouser) and a terrific cast, all add up to a perfect holiday show for the whole family.  
    I recommend this play.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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