For what seems like “Forever”, each Christmas season, Chicago is treated to the marvelous “A Christmas Carol” at The Goodman Theatre. It has become a tradition over the years and the magic of what they bring to their stage is just that magical!. Other traditions have also come to be for the “holidays”- “The Christmas Schooner”, a Chicago based musical at The Mercury is another one, but many of the other theaters, trying to find something that will rival these two have fallen short over the years. But wait! Theatre At The Center in Munster is bringing us a zesty “A Christmas Carol-The Musical” for this holiday season. Not to be confused with any other versions of the Dickens classic, this version has a book by Mike Ockrent and Lynn Ahrens with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. If these are familiar names to you that is because they have other musicals on their resumes’ ( “Ragtime”, “Little Shop of Horrors”. “The Little Mermaid” animated film first and others). This musical version takes the long, dark drama to a new and different look with the same results, but in song and dance bringing a little more festivity to the production.
Everyone knows the story- a miserly man who for some reason despises Christmas , on a Christmas Eve in London is visited by three ghosts who show him that his life at one time had spirit and love and that somewhere along the way, life and wealth took over causing him to be a loner with no affection for anyone and no love of life itself, just money. While at The Goodman, we see Scrooge fly about the magical set, in Munster, there is no flight pattern, but the set ( Richard and Jacqueline Penrod) does give you the feeling of the period. We do not have as many settings but rather than compare, let me tell you what you will find. William Pullinsi, a master at making musicals get to the heart of those watching has put together a slick production with some solid performers taking on many roles. The key to doing this show is to have the right person playing Ebenezer Scrooge and for this role, who better than Chicago favorite, Larry Adams who captures the true sense of this character as he goes from miserly old man toa loving and lovable character. His vocal range hits all the right notes as well.
The choreography is handled by Linda Fortunato who fills the stage with dynamite dancing. I will say, however, that I was a bit shocked to see one of the numbers in the second act appear to be almost a Rockette production – even the costumes were a bit modern, where the rest of the costumes (Brenda Winstead were sheer perfection). As is often the case in Munster, many of the performers are younger, newer talents who bring to the stage a certain look and feel, one that is natural as they are learning their craft by doing what they love to do- act, sing and dance!
The music is handled , as usual by William Underwood who has the ability to bring a full orchestra sound from four or five musicians. Keeps the budget intact while fully entertaining the patrons who come to see enjoyable theater. The cast is larger than normal for this theater and I was happy to see Ron Keaton ( who does several roles :Marley’s ghost, Mr. Fezziwig and the Beadle) back on stage and in fine form. His vocal range is as strong as ever and he still has the ability to dance a step or two. Megan Long,Jen Donahoo,Kathleen Gibson, Jonathan Butler-Duplessis, Matthias Austin ( Bob Cratchit),Patrick Tierney ( as young Scrooge), Kristin O’Connell, David Hathaway ( nephew Fred), a delightful Killian Hughes as Tiny Tim and an ensemble that fills the stage with wonderful music.
While the music is certainly not such that you will hum on the way home from the theater, the musical numbers do add to the story being told and while this can be a long drawn out story, this version is just about two hours with a 15 minute intermission, so it can be enjoyed by the entire family.There have been other versions of “A Christmas Carol” done in many theaters and many may recall the other musical, “Scrooge”. This is a far better holiday show to bring your family to see. The play itself has a recommended rating, but if I were to have a different rating to be made on the entertainment value of the production, it would have to be, as the talent is superb and the production far better than the script itself.
“A Christmas Carol-the Musical” will continue at Theatre At The Center through December 22nd with performances as follows:
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
No performances on Thanksgiving.
there are also some select matinees on Saturdays and some evening performances on Thursdays. These can be found on the website along with some very special events over the holidays- www.TheatreAtTheCenter.com
Tickets range from $38-$42 ( a bargain for theater of this quality) and can be purchased by calling the theater at 219-836-3255 or www.tickets.com at 1-800-511-1552.
The theater is located at 1040 Ridge Road in Munster, just a few miles off I-80/94 and has plenty of free parking. The drive is about 35 minutes from downtown and the gas prices are much lower so the fill-up will put a smile on your face along with the entertaining experience you will have at Theatre At The Center.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to review round-up and click at “A Christmas Carol-The Musical”