Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

A Queer Production of A Queer Carol

Also see Richard's review of A Little Cole In Your Stocking

Andrew Calabrese and Michael Vega
There are always many productions of the Dickens A Christmas Carol in this country and the U.K. around the holiday season, and one never tires of seeing the classic on the stage. There has been a British film musical called Scrooge with Albert Finney playing the old miser which was later made into a stage musical that regional theatres resurrect during the holidays. Bill Murray did a film version called Scrooged that featured the classic story updated to the current time. Well, I guess it was about time for someone to write a gay version of A Christmas Carol. I had only wish it were livelier and more heartfelt.

Joe Godfrey's parody got good reviews when it opened at the Duplex in 2001, and New York fans loved the biting remarks of the characters. There are some good zingers in this two-hour production. The playwright has shaped a down-to-earth depiction of gay lifestyles, especially in New York, from the Dickens classic.

The show, under Clay David's direction, can't seem to make its mind up if it's a dramatic piece or camp. And everything goes at a too rapid speed. Scrooge is a foolish middle-aged queen in present day New York. He seems to have scads of money but is still one tight-fisted man. He refuses to give health benefits to his staff and I guess they are paid something under the minimum wage.

The Ghost of Christmas Past (Sheelagh Murphy) is supposed to be the Ghost of Marilyn Monroe. However, she does not have the essence of the legendary film star and she throws lines away when talking (at least at the performance I attended). There are some great one-liners based on Monroe's films that are not hit properly.

The opening scene of Christmas Past has a teenaged Scrooge played effectively by teenager Sam Rudin. He is badgered by his father for his effeminate ways and harassed by other teenagers. Scrooge grows up to be a selfish interior designer, well-played by Andrew Calabrese. Scrooge meets Jake Markowitz and a love affair develops. Scrooge makes Jake a partner in his firm and tells him to change his name to something Anglo-Saxon. He becomes Jake Marley, with Michael Vega doing a creditable job, though he has a tendency to rush his lines. The swinger gets AIDS and dies, which Scrooge blames on Jake's revels and philandering. The scenes between the young Scrooge and Jake are strictly a gay soap opera style that would see on the LOGO network.

The Ghost of Christmas Present is played by sassy d'Arquoia Connor, with a group of sophisticated gay New Yorkers having witty conversations that undoubtedly broke up the New York crowd. Of course dear old Scrooge, now played by Dann Howard, lingers about listening to the sparkling conversations. There is even a little game called Gay Trivial Pursuit that is not particularly funny. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come whizzes by so fast it does not bear repeating.

Scrooge of course becomes a better man and he even gives a big basket of fruit and candies from Zabar's to Cratchit (I wonder how many West Coaster got this zinger). There are very campy lines in the play, for instance, in the big party scene at the end: "I want you to meet my new friend. He has just come to New York to write the great American musical," to which another replies "You must be a waiter."

Dann Howard (When Pigs Fly, Whoop-Dee-Doo!, Pageant, Valhalla) seems a mite too young to be playing a miserly old man. He plays the role like an old fashioned Shakespearian actor with a striking operetta voice that is straight out of a Gilbert and Sullivan musical (Howard was associated with the Lamplighters for several years). However, it is a stylish performance. Jerry A. Deal is good as the flamboyant, swishy Fezziwig. Joseph Holmes and Lisa Hensley efficiently play various parts in this production.

A Queer Carol plays through December 31st at the Main Theatre of the New Conservatory Theatre Center. For tickets call 415-861-8972 or visit

Photo: Lois Tema

Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema

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