Spotlighters stages exceptional 'Scrooge'


It is often said good things come in small packages. Certainly this is true of the impressive production of the musical "Scrooge" playing at the Spotlighters Theatre tomorrow through Sunday.

Adapted by Leslie Bricusse from the beloved Charles Dickens story, "A Christmas Carol," the play calls for a large cast and numerous children. Considering the confined area, the Spotlighters have met all stage requirements nicely, relying on simple props and the fertile imagination of the audience.

With the group's limited resources there are still some very good and spooky special effects. The songs are well executed although the taped music is sometimes too loud for the live vocalization.

Brian Chetelat is making his directorial debut for the theater with this show and he has handled the production with skill, especially in the casting of the main roles. Chetelat is also a local actor/singer of some repute. As the resplendent ghost of Christmas Present he is a great, jocular fellow singing in fine, full baritone "I Love Life."

What makes this production exceptional is the remarkable performance of Mark Redfield as the miserable, sour-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge. His is a classic interpretation that is almost Shakespearean.

This 27-year-old professional actor, with the aid of very subtle makeup, easily passes for 75 or 80 on the stage. Redfield's meticulous diction, perceptive phrasing, excellent transitions and impeccable timing make his Scrooge the finest we have seen on the local scene.

With his perpetual frown, mean, pursed mouth, hunched shoulders and halting gait, Redfield is the ultimate, cold-hearted skinflint who learns the hard lesson of keeping Christmas well all year round.

There is outstanding interaction between Scrooge and the other main characters. The scene between the old miser and the ghost of his late partner, Jacob Marley, is eerily gripping. Stuart Voytilla is superb as the remorseful, tragic Marley weighed down by the cruel chains he forged in life.

Joe Leatherman, in two fine performances, doubles as the miser's nephew, Fred, and as the chilling, haunting figure of Christmas Yet To Come.

Jim Kinstle as the poor street vendor, Tom Jenkins, is nothing less than terrific in the performance of his rousing song and dance numbers, notably, "Thank You Very Much."

Other fine performances are given by Andrew Rothkin, Bonnie Danaker and Bob Tull. The only drawback here is the casting of a female child as Tiny Tim. Although Katie Horn is sweet in the part she is so obviously a little girl and it detracts from the good of the whole.

Some of the minor characters are a bit weak, but no matter. The children are all delightful and the spirit of Dickens in this "Scrooge" is true.

Theatre Project

The mythology that the protective mind manufactures clashes with harsh reality in the Figures of Speech Theater production, "Whosis," on stage at the Theatre Project through Sunday.

Last year this very talented and versatile puppet-actor theater presented a stunning work, "Anerca," at the Project. Usually, the puppets are the central figures in this company's productions.

But this changes with the staging of "Whosis" (an ambiguous title for an ambiguous show) directed by Michael Rafkin. The live actors are predominant and the puppets, unfortunately, secondary. The thin story line, which is confusing and hard to follow, is concerned with a grown woman's childhood memories of her drunken father's abuse and her final acceptance of truth.

Her agonizing journey in which a doll figure as alter ego represents the brave person she is not, is fraught with fragmented fantasy combined with glimpses of how things really were. The three players open and intersperse the play lustily singing vaudeville style songs with biting lyrics, an approach that could well be deleted.

There is little imagery in this incomplete work and the multi-layered "symbolism" seems unnecessary. The live actors themselves seem intruders. The story could have been simply and poetically told (with much stronger effect) using the group's exquisitely fashioned puppets and the performers remaining as background.

However, the actors are excellent even if their portrayals are unclear. They are John Farrell, Carol Llewellyn and Karen E. Nelson.

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