Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

A Christmas Carol
elite Dance and Theatre
Review by Dean Yannias

Also see Mark's review of Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol, Rob's review of Tuesdays with Morrie and Dean's review of The Real Nut: The True Story of the Nutcracker


Paul Costales, Steve Corona, and Alex Harden
Photo by Two Brunos Photography
A few years ago, Albuquerque seemed to be awash in Christmas Carols each December. But a saturation point was reached, and we're almost all Christmas Caroled out by now (I suspect that this is a nation-wide phenomenon). There's only one production of the Dickens story in Albuquerque this year, and fortunately it's an inventive take, so it's well worth seeing.

Cheri Costales adapts classic texts for elite Dance and Theatre, then directs and choreographs them. In her version of A Christmas Carol, the well-known episodes of the story are all there, but the emphasis is on family and charity and the Nativity. She adds an encounter between Scrooge and his mother that I don't think is in the original. The Cratchits give all of their Christmas presents to a needy woman, and I don't remember that either. We are reminded more than once of the reason for the holiday.

In another example of Cheri's rethinking of the story, I'm not even sure that the ghosts are ghosts in this version. We see them first as three people (played by Alyssa Costales, McKenna Beck, and Drew Sowers) talking on the street, remarking that the time has almost come. Later, each appears in costume as the ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, so maybe there is nothing supernatural going on at all. Could it be a theatrical performance at Scrooge's house, except that he's not aware of the artifice? It's clever and thought-provoking.

As usual with elite, the technical aspects (sound by Matt Ramsey, lighting by Ben Costales) are excellent. Also as usual, there is almost no set, which is not a problem at all, since the costumes more than make up for it. The costumes, fitted on a cast of more than 25, and often with several costume changes per dancer, are outstanding. All of these people deserve credit for them: Cheri Costales, Erin Morrison, Jeanette Pacheco, Linda Downum, Judy Brewster, and Tracey Meisenheimer, as well as the stage manager Cathy Costales. The dancing and singing are very well done, the only jarring number being the "Thriller" takeoff that is not just anachronistic, but also not in keeping with the overall tone of the show.

The acting, directed by Cheri Costales and Cara Sowers, is almost uniformly fine. The three Cratchit boys (Gabriel Zubiate, Theo Morrison, and Sam Hafenrichter) are great little actors and adorable to boot. Among the adults, I was very impressed by Steve Corona and Cara Sowers as Bob and Mrs. Cratchit, Alex Harden as Scrooge's nephew Fred, Alicia Swanson and Audrey Swanson as Scrooge's servants, and Megan Othling as Scrooge's old girlfriend.

The only problem with the show is a weakness at the center of it. Paul Costales is simply not an expressive enough actor to play Scrooge effectively. His range of expressions is not very wide, and this is not a role to be underplayed. As you can see from the number of times the name "Costales" shows up in this review, elite productions are something of a family affair, but in this case, they should have looked outside of the inner circle.

Despite this casting flaw, this Christmas Carol is highly recommended. Everything I have seen Cheri and her company do has been fresh and innovative. I'm looking forward to their Dorian Gray in the spring of 2017.

A Christmas Carol, the Charles Dickens story adapted by Cheri Costales, is being presented by elite Dance and Theatre at the North 4th Theatre, 4904 4th Street NW (just north of Griegos) in Albuquerque. Through December 17, 2016. Friday and Saturday at 7:00, Saturday at 2:00. No Sunday show. Evening shows are $22 (which includes sandwiches and desserts at intermission), matinee is $18. Info at www.elitenm.net.


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