'Tis the season for merriment and Christmas joy as well as for reflecting on the vicissitudes of life and, as the chasm grows between the rich and the poor, it isn't surprising to find so many bay area theatres offering up adaptations of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Curtain Call Performing Arts in San Leandro joins in the tradition with their rendition of the 1994 musical version of A Christmas Carol, with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and book by Mike Ockrent and Lynn Ahrens, playing December 21-23.
Charles Dickens' tale about miserable and miserly old Ebenezer Scrooge and the change of heart he undergoes one bleak and dreary Christmas Eve was an instant success in 1843, highlighting as it did the plight of the poor in industrial England and simultaneously indicting the wealthy for their lack of compassion and their disinterest in addressing social issues around poverty and injustice.
The biting bitterness of Dickens' original storyline is softened in this musical version, with the songs adding charm and pathos but not gut-wrenching anger at a horribly unjust system. Director Misty Megia sets this version of 'Carol' in 1940's Londontown, but there is no mention made of the blitz or the war effort to tie into David Biettel and Catherine Jansen's imaginative set design or Andrea Gorham's 1940's era costumes.
The ghost of Scrooge's former business partner, Jacob Marley (Bruce Kaplan), together with the ghosts of Christmas Past (Catherine Williamson), Present (Nik Dmoski) and Future (Victorian King-Bowman) sing and dance their way through the life of Ebenezer Scrooge (a delightful John Cotrufo) showing him moments of joy and sadness as well as missed opportunities where he chose making money over having relationships.
Christina Lazo's choreography is wonderfully joyful during the look back to the 1920's when young Scrooge (Taemon Omololu) attends Fezziwig's (Ronnie Ramos and Jennifer Weiner)annual Christmas party. And when the Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge to a show - the Rockette-style number sparkles. The addition of zombies in the "Link-by-Link" song was campy and I won't give it away here, but there are some fun surprises in this number.
Sound was a problem on opening night and a few actors were in the dark for some of the songs but this community theatre cast had heart and pluck, making the ensemble numbers especially engaging. Burton Weaver is wonderful as Bob Crachit, Scrooge's underpaid and unappreciated employee, but he's at his tender best when he's taking care of his youngest son, Tiny Tim, played by a very sweet Emily Joy Kessel.
At this time of year when the darkest days of the year are upon us, A Christmas Carol, is a reminder that it takes all of us to bring true light and joy into the lives of those with the least.
A Christmas Carol Musical
Based on the Story by Charles Dickens
San Leandro Arts Education Center
Curtain Call Performing Arts
Photo courtesy of CCPA