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Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Scrooge in Rouge
Mesa Encore Theatre
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's recent reviews of Quest for Claus: The Musical and Mamma Mia!

Roger Prenger, Jonathan Perry Brown, and Katy Callie
Photo by Heather Butcher
The old adage of "the show must go on" is front and center in Scrooge in Rouge, a bawdy retelling of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol in which a threadbare theatrical company must overcome illness to ensure the curtain rises on their latest production. Mesa Encore Theatre presents the area premiere of this musical by Ricky Graham and Jefferson Turner in a loose and lively production.

The show is set in the 1840s where the Royal Music Hall Variety Players are presenting their dramatic telling of Scrooge's tale of redemption. However, a bad case of food poisoning strikes the theatrical company of twenty, forcing the three still standing cast members to portray all the characters in the show. Hilarity and hijinks ensue.

Graham and Turner's script and score have plenty of witty lyrics and dialogue. The script includes several good jokes and numerous bawdy double entendres as well as a few very corny moments. Some of these might elicit an occasional groan from the audience though I believe that is what Graham and Turner intended. While the score isn't completely memorable, it does include a repetitive motif for Scrooge that is used quiet effectively throughout and the songs are fairly short, so even the average ones are over with before you know it. Since the show is in the tradition of British music hall shows, they even include an upbeat ditty about the seaside that, while it has nothing to do with A Christmas Carol, is a rousing and fun tune.

MET's production has been directed by Jean-Paul C. Clemente who ensures the comic lines pop and the gags resonate. He also has a very game cast who play off each other well and make sure that the farcical elements, which include missed cues, gender bending roles, incredibly quick costume changes, and ill-timed sound effects, are all delivered well, which adds to the comedy of the script.

The trio of actors for this production are fairly good and, while they aren't all the best singers, it actually doesn't detract much from the show due to the farcical, loose nature of the musical. All three know how to milk the zanier lines for full effect. Katy Callie does well as the actress playing Scrooge and a few other smaller parts. She instills Scrooge with the traits we are familiar with but also adds a playful touch and charm to this well known character. Roger Prenger is exceptional as the actor who ends up playing numerous characters with breakneck speed and even quicker costume changes. His well accomplished singing and dancing skills add to the humor of the show. Jonathan Perry Brown is good in the drag role of Lottie Obbligato, with a lovely comical stage presence that works well for the deer caught in the headlights, confused and flustered state of Lottie (she often calls Bob Cratchit "Bob Crabcakes") and a slightly dirty sense of humor, though his singing skills aren't quite on par with the rest of the cast.

This Mesa Encore Theatre Black Box production features a very minimal set design, but Pam Pershing Lezo's costumes and the wig styling from Kim Cooper Schmidt are comical in nature, adding plenty of bits of levity to the already funny show. Musical director Tristan Peterson-Steinert, who also portrays the on-stage piano player, has fine playing skills and direction that keep the pace of the songs lively and fun.

The looseness of the script and the average score might make this musical a show that traditional theatregoers might not be akin to. But if you're up for a fun and slightly lewd night out with a cast who puts their all into the show, I think you'll have a blast with this Scrooge in Rouge.

Scrooge in Rouge runs at Mesa Encore Theatre through December 18th, 2016, with performances at the MET Black Box Theatre at 933 East Main Street in Mesa. Tickets can be ordered by calling (480) 644-6500 or at

Producer: Jason K. Walz
Director: Jean-Paul C. Clemente
Music Director: Tristan Peterson-Steinert
Stage Manager: Cheryl Briley
Lighting Designer: Matt Stetler
Properties: Trine Bradshaw
Costumes: Pam Pershing Lezo
Wig Style: Kim Cooper Schmidt

Vesta Virile: Katy Callie
Miss Lottie Obbligato: Jonathan Perry Brown
Mr. Charlie Schmaltz: Roger Prenger
Mr. Alfred de Capo: Tristan Peterson-Steinert

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