Regional Reviews: St. Louis
Q Brothers Christmas Carol
Swooping in to our holiday rescue is the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, with an unlikely but delightful replacement: Q Brothers Christmas Carol, a funny, smart, and very accessible modern, hip-hop inspired update of the classic. The show was developed with Rick Boyton, with musical composition by JQ, and it runs through December 23 at the National Blues Museum in downtown St. Louis, in the old Stix, Baer & Fuller building.
Even if you don't think you like hip-hop, this fast-paced eighty-minute show will win you over with the charm and wit of just four actors, and the consistently enjoyable rhymes of the songwriting Q Brothers Collective (the quartet goes by the individual names of GQ, JQ, JAX, and POS) now playing in a former department store building. In spite of the genre, it's all very PG-rated.
On stage, Garrett Young plays Scrooge: haughty and contemptuous of the Christmas season. But he also works in genuine pathos as the familiar story barrels to its à la mode conclusion. The hardworking little cast reminds me of the most exciting Macbeth I ever saw, which counter-intuitively boasted a cast of only three. Is there anything more thrilling than watching a tiny handful of live performers fill the stage with frenetic energy and continuously transforming themselves into an array of colorful characters at every turn?
Steph Paul is the choreographer of this highly kinetic and admirably constructed Christmas Carol, with all the non-Scrooge roles being played by Maya Vinice Prentiss, Victor Musoni, and Mo Shipley (plus a DJ, of course, Mel Bady). They add a mad momentum to the evening, a trio to fill the story with their brio under the direction of the Q Collective, as well. Mr. Musoni is delightful as the ghost of Jacob Marley, transformed in the afterlife to "another" Marley, from the Jamaican branch of the "family." Ms. Prentiss is great as Bob Cratchit and in a variety of other roles. Mo Shipley is funny and oddly poignant as Cratchit's wife, and fun as Scrooge's carefree gay nephew Fred, with Ms. Prentiss as his boyfriend.
It's strangely humbling to stroll through the Blues Museum before the show, where we behold the Dickensian assortment of musical artists memorialized there. And the show is genuinely endearing, with lots of modern updates, including the excellent lighting and just-right sound throughout. William Attaway's admirable set glows with warmth, and lots of glitter too. In fact, if you sit in the first few rows, you will almost certainly come away from this genuinely uplifting experience with a few sparkles of gold on your sweater, to match the very noticeable new sparkle in your eyes.
Q Brothers Christmas Carol runs through December 23, 2023, at the National Blues Museum, 615 Washington Avenue, St. Louis. Physically a bit cramped in the cabaret-style audience, in a theater in the museum. For tickets and information please visit www.stlshakesfest.org
* Denotes Member, Actors' Equity Association