ELLSWORTH — It’s a wonderful thing when our friends and neighbors of all ages, spend the time and energy, in this busy time of year, to attend umpteen rehearsals, learn and even write new songs, memorize dialogue and narration and overcome stage fright in order to bring a little Christmas cheer to their community.
In this case it was “A Musical Christmas Carol” which opened at The Grand last weekend and will return this weekend, Dec. 21-22.
Directed by the Grand’s own Nick Turner with original songs by Troy Schuh, we are transported, by the ingenious new technology of a projected set, to a snowy 19th-century London street, bustling with folks out for a stroll and a little last-minute shopping or charitable fund-raising before Christmas Day.
And I mean bustling! Kudos to Stephanie Urquhart for putting together credible costumes for a cast of about 45 or so, some of whom played more than one character. While it was fun and colorful to see such a crowd of ladies in their bonnets, and shawls, men in their waistcoats and top hats and adorable tots in frocks or nickers and caps, it tended to limit the movement when they were all on stage, so the big chorus numbers tended to be somewhat static.
Still they produced a nice chorale sound when they were all together. Most of the solo singers as well as the speakers would have benefited from some amplification, but a few soloists in the opening number were able to project to the back of the hall.
As Ebenezer Scrooge himself, Jim Pendergist has no problem with projection while blustering and bah-humbugging the inconvenience of Christmas and poor Bob Cratchit’s paid holiday.
Peter Miller’s constructed office building in center stage blends in perfectly with all the projections preventing the set from becoming a completely two-dimensional movie screen. Draping the stage apron, with earthy fabrics and bric-a-brac, is also clever bit of stage dressing.
As beleaguered Bob Cratchit, Bill Foster is properly diffident, but, he needs to project, especially since during much of his opening dialogue, Saturday night, he was blocked from the view by the imposing presence of Ebenezer’s cheerful nephew, Fred, played with gusto by Blane Shaw. This is an easy fix as there is plenty of room for good ol’ Fred on the other side of his uncle’s desk.
John Hamer as Marley’s ghost is gratifyingly scary. We only get to see two spirits in this version of the story. Savannah Hasham makes a lovely Christmas Past and, as the Spirit of Christmas Present, Rachel Kohrman Ramos delivers some of the most animated acting in the show using expressive body language and the full stage to move about, representing first mirth, then misery.
Nicole Cardano also brings life to her role as jolly Mrs. Fezziwig.
The kids, of course, are precious and seemed thoroughly immersed in their role and having great fun, which is the whole point. That and reminding us that being kind and charitable to one another is something we should practice all the days of the year.
“A Musical Christmas Carol” will be performed this Friday, Dec. 21 at 7 p.m. and Saturday Dec. 22 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. For tickets call 667-9500 or go to www.grandonline.org.