Saturday February 24th 2018

“Scrooge and the Ghostly Spirits”

Turkey Day is over and it is now time for every theater (well, almost) to bring out their Christmas, or perhaps we should say, Holiday, productions. It seems that many theater companies are doing “It’s A Wonderful Life..the Radio Show”, and of course, our little “Elf” is back in town as is a visit to “Santaland” and of course, the play that for many defines the holiday, “A Christmas Carol”. Citadel Theatre, that North Shore suburban company that has a fantastic following is doing something special this Holiday Season. They are producing a World Premiere of a new musical version of the story of Ebenezer Scrooge called “Scrooge and the Ghostly Spirits”. Written by Douglas Post, this is the story that Dickens first presented but from a different perspective- a story that truly allows us to see the transformation of this miserly lost soul into the generous, fun-loving man that he comes to be, after he is visited by his old partner and three other spirits.

Directed by Scott Phelps, who has proven over and over that he is unafraid of tackling new material and who has learned the limitations of the small stage area in their Lake Forest home. While they have created a clever, multi-purpose set ( (Kristen Martino), there are times that it became a bit cumbersome considering this is a version that takes place in 94 minutes ( no intermission). Citadel has changed their musicals from taped music to live musicians, and while they are limited in space, it is far better for all concerned .

In the role of Scrooge is  Frank Farrell, who brings a certain quality to the role. I did not like the wig that he wore (it looked as if he were wearing ear-warmers) and perhaps he scowled and grunted a bit much in the first few scenes, but as the story unfolded, he also became a changed actor playing the character that was also changing. Scrooge is not an easy role to play and having to sing songs often makes a character a little harder to navigate through. Phelps has three children in the play and probably should have added a few, only because they were used in multi-roles which may have confused audience members who were unfamiliar with the story (if that is even possible). Luke Chichester as Tiny Tim is wonderful , a very expressive young actor) but I think he should not be playing additional roles.  Emiko Chichester, who may be his older sister, has great stage presence and is a vibrant performer, and Kosta Kapsalis is the third child actor that we see in this production. It appears that there is another child and that there is a B cast, so on different performances Courtney Miller takes on the roles played by Emiko Chichester)

Bob  Cratchit is played by Rob Ibanez and again, he takes on a few other supporting roles ( the stage could not hold any more actors than Phelps uses). His Cratchit is very believable and his wife played by Monica Szaflik with the voice of an angel. The ensemble, most of wehom handles many roles is strong: Preston O’ffill, Will Rogers ( a solid Fezziwig), Maddie Sachs, Asher Ramaly, Natalie Santoro (Ghost of Christmas yet to come),  Rebecca Keeshin ( Ghost of Christmas Present), Matthew Phillip Johnston, Coco Kasperowicz, Catherine Athenson ( Ghost of Christmas Past), Erik Dohner ( Marley’s ghost), Samantha Erne, Eric Deutz and on alternate performances Henry Kern take son the roles played by Kapsalis as well as on special performances, Tiny Tim). A huge cast on a small stage and there are even some dance numbers (choreography by  Ann Delaney).

The tech aspects of the show are well done. The sound (Bob Boxer) works despite the band being on the stage (the majority of performers are wearing body mikes), the lighting (Diane D. Fairchild) works even when the actors walk through the auditorium and the props, for the most part (Devon Green) were effective. In the early scenes, Scrooge was doing some ledger work but he had no ledger ( error? or were we supposed to use our imagination)? Paul Kim’s costumes were quite realistic, except that Scrooge has some problems with his nightshirt, his Ascot and why was he wearing a belt?. Benjamin Nichols is the Music Director and handles the keyboards with Lena Gaetz on the violin and Jessica Bieniarz on the Cello. The musical numbers are all designed to propel the story and for the most part do not stand out with the exception of the theme “Mankind is My Business”.

I love the concept and the fact that this company accepted a new challenge to bring something new and original to its audiences for the Holiday Season. If this is a story that you enjoy and would like to enjoy the re-telling with your family, “Scrooge and the Ghostly Spirits” will continue thru December 23rd at Citadel Theatre located at 300 South Waukegan Road in Lake Forest with performances as follows:

Wednesdays  11 a.m. 11/29 and 12/6   12/20 at 7 p.m.

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  8 p.m.

Saturdays  8 p.m.  ON DECEMBER 23rd   at 1 p.m.

Sundays  3 p.m.

There will also be a Tuesday performance on 12/19 at 7 p.m.

Running time, approx. 90 minutes- NO INTERMISSION

Tickets from $37.50- $40 and can be ordered  at www.CitadelTheatre.org

or calling 847-735-8554

Plenty of free parking

to see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at ” Scrooge and the Ghostly Spirits”

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