Scrooge 2010 Cheers Cabrillo Stage Audiences—a New Holiday Tradition?
The face of a gigantic clock marks the place as well as the time of the action and plays an important role in a marvelous production of the updated Dickens’ classic, Scrooge, at Cabrillo Stage. From the first rousing greeting by a stage full of caroling Victorian Londoners to the exhilarating full-throated conclusion, there is not a lagging moment. Even the “Bah Humbug! Tired of Christmas” audience members just have to give in and grin.
Based on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol—a tale almost as familiar as the Christmas story itself—the musical Scrooge began as a 1970 film starring Albert Finney for which composer Leslie Bricusse won an Academy Award. Bricusse’s stage musical opened in 1992 and has been in constant production since. Cabrillo presented Scrooge in a sold out run in 2009 with a favorite local actor in the lead role. Yet the 2010 Scrooge is as fresh as a newborn idea.
Everything is crisp, from the diction of the omnitalented cast to the fabulous footwork. The evocative set has a just-washed-in-the-rain look, indicating the stone streets of old London or the interiors of homes and offices—all overseen by the backlit face of Big Ben, ticking the hours till midnight. The components of Skip Epperson’s set are changed onstage by cast members in costume sweeping the snow off a street as the space becomes a dining room, or twirling the podium desk of the money-counting Scrooge, making the object part of the choreography; a few ghouls spin the disturbed man’s fourposter bed in a physical evocation of his mental state, requiring the character to twirl around while singing, it’s all very clever and well-done.
The principals are outstanding. Tony Panighetti is a convincing and charmingly irascible Scrooge who sings with a bold strong baritone. Scrooge’s deceased partner, Jacob Marley, emerges from the depths of the flickering underworld, dragging chains and a few ghosts behind him to sing in a resonant basso provocative warnings of a wasted life. Eleanor Hunter’s Ghost of Christmas Present is indeed larger than (this) life presence, singing in a full-throated alto, flinging her ersatz red fur and ermine-cloaked whole self into an oft-quaffing “I Like Life.”
Charming ensemble pieces make the most of the prodigious dancing and singing talents of a chorus of young people. Geoffrey Ward does an enchanting job as a button-popping merry Mr. Fezziwig leading a merry dance to “December the 25th”. Matt Dunn has a remarkable stage presence and clear voice as The Nephew, leading an infectious ensemble piece “The Minister’s Cat.”
The Cratchits, those poor but decent folk, are headed by a convincing Nicholas Ceglio as Bob—a self-effacing employee of Scrooge and a loving and playful head of household and father to the iconic figure of Tiny Tim. The Cratchit household is peopled by fine but somewhat mismatched singers with Ginger Hurley a strong clear soprano as Tiny Tim.
There seemed to be no missed cues or cheap shots in this production that filled the stage with a cast of 40 ranging in ages from eight years (Hurley) to middle-aged with only one Equity Actor (Panighetti) but centuries of stage experience.
Producer/Artistic Director Jon Nordgren and Director Andrew Ceglio have done a wonderful job of “keeping Christmas in our hearts” at Cabrillo Stage. Let’s hope it’s a Christmas family tradition.
Photo caption: Tony Panighetti is a Scrumptious Scrooge for Cabrillo Stage.
The Exhibitionist is funded in part by the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County.
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