In an age of uncertainty, sometimes it’s nice to get exactly what you expect. The main ingredients in MetroStage’s holiday show, back for a third season at this cozy theatre space near Old Town, Alexandria, are right there in the title A Broadway Christmas Carol: your favorite showtunes plus your best-loved Dickens.
It’s possible, in theory, that a Christmas show might someday blaze some new theatrical trail. But ’tis the season for the sweetly familiar, and there’s much fun to be had on this fast bumpy ride down snowy streets well traveled.
If there’s surprise to be had here, it’s in the heights of punchy fun that A Broadway Christmas Carol so blithely achieves. Director Michael Sharp has pressed and baked this fruitcake out of time-worn bits, but darned if it’s not a real silly thrill.
Here, songs from Sweeney Todd, Chicago, Gypsy, Godspell, Phantom of the Opera, Avenue Q, and many more have been diced up, re-lyricked, and rejiggered to the plot of that familiar Dickens story. Sharp, who also choreographed the show, performs as Ebenezer Scrooge, flanked by heavyweight goofballs Russell Sunday and Tracey Stephens.
The show, created by Kathy Feininger, wouldn’t work if it took itself an ounce more seriously than it does. The trio, all talented singers, hop-skip along the most famous lines and quips and twists in “A Christmas Carol,” but they never get bogged down on their way to the next belting, winking musical number. Nor do they get so frenzied with the fun that the cookie fully crumbles. Sharp, Sunday, and Stephens stay on task, working in practiced coordination at a quick clip, showing great verve and comic timing. The content couldn’t be cornier, but it’s performed with aplomb, backed by the talented Jacob Kidder on piano (Howard Breitbart takes over November 29).
The jokes aren’t lofty — this is a show that puts “Ebenezer” to the tune of “Oklahoma.” As Scrooge, Sharp puts on his cranky face, singing “I’m In The Money” during his coin-counting and, later, “Miserly” to the tune of “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” from My Fair Lady.
Stephens, a pint-sized firecracker who regularly performs with the comedy troupe The Capitol Steps, hams it up with a big wide grin and spring-coiled physical humor. She returns to the show in multiple roles, getting big laughs as a vampish charity worker singing “Big Spender” and, in a killer impersonation (with boa) that I won’t spoil here, singing a variation on “Turn Back, O Man.”
A Broadway Christmas Carol
Closes December 23, 2012
1201 North Royal Street
1 hour, 50 minutes with 1 intermission
Tickets: $48 – $55
Thursdays thru Sundays
Sunday, who is new to the show this year, is equally adroit, with humorous turns as a senile ghost singing “Try To Remember” and as a cockeyed Tiny Tim singing “Tomorrow,” among many other roles.
Sharp and his cohorts hits two major target audiences here: parents looking for a sanity-saving twist to their traditional holiday fare, and all those mad-about-yule folks who put up their Christmas decorations a few weeks too far in advance.
The rapid, revolving-door staging will keep the young ones entertained, although this stirred-up version of Dickens won’t make total sense to any who don’t know the story. And the bright, candied design of Allison Campbell’s set, along with Jessica Lee Winfield’s punchy and effective lighting, is an easy sugar binge for anyone hungry to get their Christmas started early.
MetroStage isn’t afraid to do a little re-gifting, and I imagine it’ll pay off with a cheerful confection like this. Sharp has honed the show, getting the comedy tighter and the difficult mechanics (numerous quick-changes, constant entrances and exits) into great working order. It’s paid off to have a couple of seasons to nail it. For a night of easy fun, performed all-out and with love, let these three spirits take you away.
A Broadway Christmas Carol . Book and Lyrics by Kathy Feininger . Directed and Choreographed by Michael Sharp .
Music Direction by Jacob Kidder and Howard Brietbart . Featuring Russell Sunday, Michael Sharp and Tracey Stephens.
Produced by MetroStage . Reviewed by Hunter Styles