If you’re in need of a holiday pick-me-up, Children’s Theatre of Charlotte’s production of Scrooge! is just the ticket. The McColl Family Theatre in the children’s center ImaginOn is home to a year-long series of productions, and this reframe of Dickens’s classic morality tale into a musical (book, music, and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse) is a surefire antidote to holiday ennui. From the moment you enter ImaginOn, you are swept into a world of vibrant colors, books (yes, there’s a library there), and imaginative spaces where children can literally put themselves into stories. The energy is palpable, with kids swarming everywhere. Once inside the theater, the sumptuous set design (by Bob Croghan) evoking mid-19th century London invites close scrutiny while waiting for the show, directed by Ron Chisholm, to begin.
Chisholm is a true veteran to the stage, having either directed and/or choreographed more than 300 shows and events around the country. In his 25th season with CTC, he has also choreographed this production. Drina Keen directed the small pit orchestra of keyboards, bass, drums, and brass. Bob Croghan also designed the many costumes for the cast, which numbered a dozen adults and fifteen students. The latter term refers to the fact that this company sponsors many workshops in the theatre arts, and its students populate their productions. The show’s director greeted the audience and explained the story’s central theme of redemption and what a difference the actions of a single person can make in the lives of others. It was clear that the young audience was accustomed to attending live theatre, as they attentively followed the story with all its big words and adult ideology in silence, and belly-laughed in all the right spots.
All aspects of the performance, which lasted ninety minutes without intermission, deserve commendation. The stage blocking and movement were superb, as the characters flowed effortlessly around one another and fully utilized the entire stage. The choreography was one of the show’s highlights, especially the opening chorus “Sing a Christmas Carol,” the Fezziwig’s “December the 25th,” and the charming singing game “The Minister’s Cat.” The special effects were magnificent — the haunting, reverberating voice of Jacob Marley, the lighting effects (by David Fillmore) accompanying each of the three spirits, the mist that swirled up from the spirit world, and the snowfall in the final scene. The clever set design allowed for both the bustle of community life, as well as close-ups of the intimate life of Scrooge’s and the Cratchit family’s households.
The actors were well cast and uniformly well coached in dialect. Steven Ivey was magnificent as the skinny skinflint Scrooge, with Beau Stroupe in a strong portrayal of his doomed business partner, Jacob Marley, and Scott Miller as his long-suffering clerk, Bob Cratchit. Elly Hughes was the adorable and pitiful Tiny Tim. Stephen Seay was Scrooge’s dutiful nephew with Chaz Pofahl as the ebullient and fun-loving Spirit of Christmas Present. The numerous children in the cast were simply a joy to see. The music consists of relatively short numbers which were well executed and flowed seamlessly around the spoken dialogue.
Not only was the show uplifting, but the fact that Charlotte has such a crown jewel of a production facility with instructional programs for children in the theatre arts is something of which all North Carolinians can be proud. And for the visionaries who thought this whole thing up, and the sponsors who continue to support the enterprise, God bless them every one!
Scrooge! continues through Monday, December 22. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.