Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
The Christmas Carol Rag
It's that time of year again. Lights are being hung, trees are adorned with decoration and let's not forget that mistletoe. Yes, Christmas is quickly approaching and with it comes a host of holiday entertainment. Leading the pack in the DC area are many stage productions of the perennial favorite, A Christmas Carol. However, Signature Theatre is presenting a production of the Dickens classic that is a little different from the norm. They have given us The Christmas Carol Rag, which doesn't take place in England but in New York City and instead of old Ebenezer we are introduced to Evelyn Scrooge. Playwright Norman Allen has crafted a musical set in the ragtime era that has retained many of the original elements of A Christmas Carol, while adding some fresh perspective. Scrooge is not just a woman who hungers for money - she strives for independence and equality.
It is easy to see why Mr. Allen was attracted to this source material. In many ways the story deals with the use and manipulation of time. This is a theme that is quite prominent in his earlier work, Coffee With Richelieu. And like Richelieu, this piece is wonderfully written.
The score includes some lovely old tunes that fit very well into the story. The songs include George M. Cohan's amusing "Then I'd Be Satisfied With Life" and the traditional carol "Deck The Halls." One piece that makes a great impact is Dana Kruger's haunting performance of "What Child Is This?"
Donna Migliaccio's interpretation of Mrs. Scrooge is quite lovely. She embraces every aspect of the character. Whether she is portraying the character in good humor or in a stern mood, Ms. Migliaccio always seems to convey Scrooge's underlying sadness. Acting aside, her singing is tremendous and it is worth more than the price of admission just to hear Ms. Migliaccio sing "Nobody."
Another standout in this cast is Will Gartshore. As Fred, Mrs. Scrooge's affable nephew, Mr. Gartshore displays an appealing optimism and sings delightfully. He is equally effective as Tim Fezziwig, Evelyn Scrooge's suitor. Fellow actor Steven Cupo (pictured at right) plays Mr. Fezziwig, and he is just plain fun to watch. Eleasha Gamble shines as the ghost of Christmas present with her rousing take on "Go Tell It On The Mountain."
Directed by Eric Schaeffer, the production as a whole works well. Karma Camp has provided some exuberant choreography and the set design by Lou Stancari is a charming street scene. Chris Lee's lighting design adds drama to the piece. The costumes by Reggie Ray capture the setting and time period of the show and a special mention should be made of Christie Kelly's makeup, wig and hair design, which completes the picture.
The Christmas Carol Rag is a joyous holiday treat that celebrates the season. You can visit Mrs. Scrooge and her friends through December 22nd.
The Signature Theatre
Fezziwig/Bobby: Steven Cupo