A spirited 'Christmas Carol' delights at Toby's

For The Baltimore Sun
"A Christmas Carol" continues through Jan. 8 at Toby's Dinner Theatre of Columbia, 5900 Symphony Woods Road.

A special treat awaits all fans of Charles Dickens' "Christmas Carol" at Toby's Dinner Theatre in Columbia, where a sparkling musical version of this classic is being offered to warm holiday spirits.

Brightened by the music of Alan Menken, famed composer of mega-hit Disney films, this 1994 rendition of "A Christmas Carol" was originally presented by Radio City Entertainment and ran for a decade of holiday seasons at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Menken's upbeat score of 18 hummable tunes seems guaranteed to enchant across generations.

In the role of Scrooge — his fourth time playing the character — David Bosley-Reynolds proves himself among the best in the region. He's always entertaining and innately likable, especially when Scrooge is "forced" to dance, his awkwardness signaling a human frailty that prevents Scrooge from ever becoming a totally fearsome and intimidating miser.

Bosley-Reynolds' resonant baritone adds luster to every number — scowling and sneering in his "Nothing to Do with Me" and, in contrast, warmly nostalgic in recalling "Fezziwig's Annual Christmas Ball." He presents a reflective character in "Abundance and Charity" and glows as a joyous celebrant in "Yesterday, Tomorrow and Today."

Throughout his performance, Bosley-Reynolds maintains a hectic pace, combating townspeople or joining in dance and song. He summons a curmudgeonly Scrooge rudely brushing aside strangers' holiday greetings and responding harshly to charity representatives' solicitations for the poor by asking if there are no workhouses for such unfortunates.

The talented Tina Marie DeSimone provides several comic highlights as Mrs. Cratchit. She displays sharp humor when, at her husband's prodding, she reluctantly asks blessings for his stingy employer Scrooge at their meager Christmas dinner while also communicating her mounting concern for their son Tiny Tim.

As in Toby's 2012 version, David James again directs the large, excellent and versatile cast. James also defines the role of Scrooge's beleaguered assistant Bob Cratchit, patient with his employer and devotedly determined to provide for his family. He is especially moving in his "You Mean More to Me," sung to Tiny Tim.

Also multi-tasking is Lawrence B. Munsey, who plays roles of the Beadle and Mr. Hawkins, and also serves as associate artistic director and costume designer. In the latter role, Munsey creates a magnificent array of Victorian costumes, While many are suitably drab earth shades, the women's costumes are elegantly enlivened by smart accessories, and the men are handsomely attired with top hats and coats. The results visually transport us to Dickens' Victorian England.

On Christmas Eve, Ebenezer Scrooge is famously visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, along with influential associates with whom Scrooge observes past events and imagines future happenings.

Happy times are recalled as Scrooge revisits generous friends at Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig's annual Christmas ball — enlivened by Toby's extraordinary song and dance man, Jeffrey Shankle, joined here by powerful singer Crystal Freeman as Mrs. Fezziwig.

Also noteworthy are Heather Beck as the Ghost of Christmas Past, whose lovely voice raises "The Lights of Long Ago." Young Scrooge, played by fine singer AJ Whittenberger, touches hearts in "A Place Called Home" as he encounters his love, Emily, played by equally fine singer MaryKate Brouillet.

Darren McDonnell charms as the Ghost of Christmas Present, delivering a memorable "Abundance and Charity." As the Ghost of Christmas Future, Mackenzie Newbury shines.

A special mention is due to fine singer Lucas Bromberg, a scene-stealing second-grader who played Tiny Tim on press night, stealing hearts as well as scenes. Young Lucas alternates in the Tiny Tim role with third-grader Noah Benjamin Graham.

Behind the scenes, a skilled crew expertly brings this production together: choreographer Laurie Newton, music director Pamela Wilt, lighting designer Coleen M. Foley, scenic and light designer David A. Hopkins and sound designer Mark Smedley.

 

"A Christmas Carol" continues through Jan. 8 at Toby's Dinner Theatre, 5900 Symphony Woods Road, Columbia. For showtimes and ticket information: 301-596-6161 or 410-730-8311, or tobysdinnertheatre.com.

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