Chesapeake Music Hall's production of "A Christmas Carol" is one of two versions of Charles Dickens' perennial offered up annually in our part of the world.
The other is the Dick Gessner-Rick Wade incarnation that opens tonight for its 17th year at Colonial Players of Annapolis.
The Music Hall version truly plays Dickens to the hilt, and the result is an enjoyable, colorful presentation of the immortal story, even if the production sometimes suffers from its own excesses. David Reynolds is a smashing Jacob Marley, for example, but as I watch him glide on his roller skates and strain to hear his lyrics through all that otherworldly miking at the same time the specters are attacking Scrooge's bed, I get overloaded fast.
Still, I admire the Doug Yetter-Michael Hulett score immensely, and the cast works successfully to bring off this very difficult show. The ensemble numbers are attractively upbeat, and the choral singing at the beginning of each act is excellent.
The entire Cratchit clan is delightful, especially Alan Hoffman, who is touching as Bob, Scrooge's long-suffering clerk, and little Jessica Bays, who charms the dickens out of everyone as Tiny Tim.
Reynolds casts off his chains to become a state-of-the-art Ghost of Christmas Present, and Cynthia Lasner makes a charming, contagiously giggling Ghost of Christmas Past.
Sue Bell and Amanda Smear each contribute pretty songs as the women from Scrooge's past, and John Andrew Rose overcomes the worst-looking mutton-chop whiskers I've ever seen to perform nicely as Scrooge's nephew, Fred. His song, "Yes or No," delivered amid the parlor games of Act II, is a highlight of both the score and the show. Nice work.
You will also love the "It All Comes 'Round" trio, sung with supreme nastiness by Carol Cohen, Mary Armour-Kaiser and Ron Squeri as the scavengers who pick Scrooge's deathbed clean.
As for Ron Sarro as old Ebenezer himself, I liked him, but didn't love him.
He has the dyspeptic look and twisted posture down pat. He also does wonderful takes as he gets into the swing of Fezziwig's party in Act I and realizes the joke's on him in the "Yes or No" sequence.
But this Scrooge is so de-Anglicized he sounds like an accidental tourist in a cast full of actors who are at least trying to suggest they're British.
He also has trouble entering into the lilting poetry of Dickens' Victorian parlance. Sarro's final speech of repentance ("I'm not the man I was!") is too stilted to achieve the eloquence it needs. RTC Scrooge's climactic song, "Take My Heart," also remained earthbound on opening night.
Sarro is doing a lot of things right. Here's hoping he grows into this wonderful role.
Scrooge would have approved of the buffet; not an undigestible bit of beef or fragment of underdone potato anywhere in sight.
"A Christmas Carol" plays through Dec. 29.
Pub Date: 12/03/98