Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Two For the Holidays: “A Christmas Carol” and “The 1940’s Radio Hour”

Jacob Marley is dead. Scrooge is alive and well surrounded by friends and well -wishers. Sounds like turnabout is fair play but it took some doing to get to that point. Cygnet Theatre has extended good cheer with its original, heartfelt and foolproof production of Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol… The Classic Holiday Musical” now playing at the Theatre in Old Town through Dec. 24th.

Credit artistic director Sean Murray for the adaptation and Billy Thompson, original score and Tom Stephenson’s amazing acting as he weaves his way through the bitter and icy cold persona Ebenezer Scrooge to the smiling (ear to ear) gentle, almost Santa looking picture with Tiny Tim on his lap at show’s end. 

Charles Evans, JR., Melissa Fernandes, Maggie Carney, David McBean, Melinda Gilb and Patrick McBride
Be prepared to expect an already ongoing Carol fest as you enter the theatre. All the fixin’s and soon to be characters are there but getting into the mood is the first order of business with Maggie Carney, Charles Evans, JR., Melissa Fernandes, Melinda Gilb, Patrick McBride and David McBean. Songs and corny jokes are the business at hand before the story (that most know begins to play out).

Dickens tale is just as you remembered. It was like old times once again watching Tom Stephenson(in excellent form) morph back into his past when as a child left alone at boarding schools during the holidays began his descent into his dark outlook on life. From his falling in love with Belle (Melissa Fernandes) to his choosing money over love to his final redemption, the story plays out like a well-oiled machine. “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause”.

Cygnet’s production is charming with just the right amount of fright factor. David McBean is terrific as The Ghost of Jacob Marley as well as the undertaker. Well…so much for that.

David McBean and Tom Stephenson
Ms. Fernandes is always a delight as she takes on about seven or eight characters as do the rest of the cast. Melinda Gilb, Maggie Carney and Charles Evans, J. and Patrick McBride change characters with the blink of an eye. I was particularly impressed with the puppets and the way the actors handled them. It gives the show a very different and genuinely warm quality.

Consider Jeanne Reith’s 18th century costumes (based on original design by Shirley Pierson), Andrew Hull’s multi purpose set, Kyle Montgomery’s lighting design (based on original design by R. Craig Wolf), Matt Lescault-Wood’s sound and Michael McKeon, Lynne Jennings and Rachel Hengst wonderful puppets have them merged together with a well seasoned cast and for the season this makes for one very fine holiday choice

Dates: Through Dec. 24th
Organization: Cygnet Theatre
Phone: 619-337-1525
Where: 4040 Twiggs Street in Old Town
Ticket Prices: Start at $37.00
Web: cygnettheatre.com
Venue: Theatre in Old Town
Photo: Ken Jacques

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Just North on the 5 in Carlsbad, New Village Arts Theatre is mounting Walton Jones “The 1940’s Radio Hour…Rejuvenated” through Dec. 31st and it’s well worth the trip to Carlsbad. This is the real thing, a radio-play with all the onstage shenanigans happening right before our eyes.  

Dana Case directs another well oiled production set out to entertain, draw you in to the private and personal lives of the radio performers. There are the 20 + songs from the past that hold a dear place in my heart. It’s fun but oft times too many shticks going on and an uneven cast gets a bit distracting. Sad to say there about as many commercials aired on radio as we now see on TV and BOY are they corny. (The one for constipation should be left on the cutting room floor). 

Kelly Derouin, Zackary Scot Wolfe and Marlene Montes
The place is the recording studio of WOV and it is set in 1942, New York during the war. There are references to the war effort; in particular one of the regulars BJ Gibson (Zackary Scot Wolfe), dressed in his Army uniform (Kate Bishop) is part of the ensemble. He’s getting ready to ship overseas so when his “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” solo was finished I was mince- meat, and I don’t even celebrate Christmas.

The show opens with the cast straggling into the studio weathering a huge snow storm outside. By the time everyone gathered, said their hello’s and got warmed up, gave their looks of approval's to each other and confirmed that one of the regulars was not going to show, we kinda sorta knew what to expect. 

There is the big shot star Johnnie Cantone (Eric M. Casalini) who thought he was the last word in leading men. He has the hot’s (for the moment) for Kelly Derouin (Ann “After You’ve Gone” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” Collier) and Marlene Montes (Ginger “Blues In The Night” and “Daddy” Brooks).

Connie Miller (Danielle “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “Five O’clock Whistle” Levas) is the one who has captured Gibson’s heart. Levas also choreographs the show. She was my standout star as she and Gibson did a snappy jitterbug that brought the house down. She also came out dressed in red, white and blue spangles and tapped her way into the audience’s hearts.

Trevor Mulvey, Danielle Levas, Zackary Scot Wolfe, AJ Knox, Kelly Derouin Eric M. Casalini and Marlene Montes
Others complementing the show and working together as an ensemble include Kevane La’Marr Coleman (he seemed to be in charge of the station a la Clifton A. Faddington), A.J. Knox, Jake Bradford, Li-Anne Roswell and Jack Missett. Musical director Tony Houck at the keys (he also plays a mean horn) and Trevor Mulvey on bass were sufficient for the musical accompaniment. Both talented in their own right, they also become part of the show.

Danielle Levas, Eric M. Casalini, Kelly Derouin and Marlene Montes
For yours truly the show was a trip down memory lane with numbers like “(I’ve Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo”, Pepsi Cola”, “Daddy”, “I’ll Never Smile Again”, “Strike Up The Band”, “Blue Moon”, and “Love is Here to Stay”.

Kelly Kissinger designed the set with most all of the bells and whistles used as sound affects for these shows. Mounting radio shows seems to be a now thing. They are fun and easy and that’s just what it looked like on the set of “The 194’s Radio Hour”.

See you at the theatre.


Dates: Through Dec. 31st
Organization: New Village Arts Theatre
Phone: 760-433-3245
Production Type: Musical
Where: 2787 State Street, Carlsbad Village.
Ticket Prices: Start at $45.00
Web: newvillagearts.org

Photo: Shaun Hagen

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