'Scrooge' redeemed - in song

The Baltimore Sun

The stingiest part of 2nd Star Productions' Scrooge, the Stingiest Man in Town is its pace - it's the speediest-moving show imaginable with an abundantly talented cast.

Director Jeffrey Hitaffer says in his program notes that his objective was "to make this three-act show not seem like three acts," a goal he handily achieves. It boasts near-Broadway perfection in a show having zero dark time between at least 11 scene changes - from a London street to Scrooge's office to his bedroom to Fezziwig's office to the living rooms of Bob Cratchit's family and nephew Fred's, to a cemetery.

This production at the Bowie Playhouse is visually a work of art with Victorian London re-created by scene designer/painter Jane Wingard, who serves as 2nd Star's president. Also lending his artistry is lighting designer Garrett Hyde, whose work evokes some fearsome moments along with plenty of holiday glow, all helped into life by technician Pete Dursin.

Music director Don Smith becomes a one-man orchestra in the pit, having recorded and layered the complete instrumental score on his Yamaha keyboard/synthesizer, and adding his live presence at the keyboard at each performance.

Krissy Silvestro created fabulous choreography that is zestfully executed by the cast. Mary Dobson has created authentic-looking, often gorgeous costumes that contribute to the Victorian Christmas-card-like holiday mood.

Originally a 1956 Alcoa Hour television presentation starring Basil Rathbone as Scrooge with singer Vic Damone as young Scrooge, the book adaptation was by Janice Torre, who was also the lyricist with Fred Spielman.

In 1978, the live-action musical became an animated remake, featuring the voice of Walter Matthau as Scrooge and Robert Morse as Scrooge the younger.

Having never seen or heard either version, I was introduced to this Stingiest Scrooge by 2nd Star, which features talented song-and-dance man Ronnie Schronce. Usually a bright presence cast in sunny roles, Schronce easily makes the stretch to curmudgeonly Scrooge, summoning untapped reserves of meanness and nastiness. When his Scrooge decides to keep Christmas by being good to his fellows, Schronce takes on a golden aura that underscores his versatility.

As Scrooge's nephew Fred, newcomer Danny Milne projects warmth, humor and generosity, and sings and dances with professional polish. Another excellent singer-dancer is Carl Wilson, who plays young Scrooge with panache.

In the role of Scrooge's late partner, Jacob Marley, Jamie Hanna conveys dignity, compassion and fearsomeness - while handling heavy chains with skill. This role is double-cast, with Kevin Butler also playing Marley.

Thurman Rhodes is excellent as Bob Cratchit, portraying his character's patient restraint and love for his family. Rhodes sings well and adds a whimsical humor and lightness to the role.

Marty Hayes does well as Ghost of Christmas Past, as does Wendell Holland as the Ghost of Christmas Present. Bringing fuzzy warmth and fun to the tale are Al Chopey as Mr. Fezziwig and Debe Tighe as Mrs. Fezziwig.

I especially liked the singing of Caitlin Jennings as Belle, finding her duet with young Scrooge, "It Might Have Been," a high point of the evening. I also admired Margaret Fadler as Mrs. Cratchit, and all of the Cratchit children were attractive, with a special nod to adorable and talented young veteran Zachary Fadler as Tiny Tim.

Lots of other children participate in the spirited ensemble dancing and chorus, singing to charm even the most Scrooge-like among us into a holiday spirit. We're even treated to cider and cinnamon fragrances to tweak our senses.

Scrooge, the Stingiest Man in Town continues weekends through Dec. 3. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays. A matinee will be presented at 3 p.m. this Saturday. Tickets are $18 general admission, and $15 for seniors age 56 and up and full-time students. To order tickets, call the box office at 410-757-5700.

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