By Charles J. Morgan
Madison Square Garden’s “A Christmas Carol-The Musical” opened on Saturday, Nov. 21, at Oakdale’s CMPAC. That massive venue unveiled an equally massive cast with electronically fed music, and came up with a tightly executed rendition of that theatrical classic.
Your scribe takes pleasure in discussing Ronald Green III’s costumes. It may appear odd that costume design would appear first in a review, but your scribe was so impressed with Green’s effort, producing as it did a totally authentic representation of Dickensian, mid-Victorian dress.
Green’s attention to detail was seen even in a short vignette of a properly bewigged judge and a uniformed London bobby in Act II. All the cast members were costumed in varying versions of mid-19th century attire; some painstaking research was done here. Authenticity was called for and Green delivered.
The leading role of the penurious, miserly, arrogant opinionated, skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge was played stingingly by Brodie Centuro, no stranger to CMPAC. He accurately depicted the penny-pinching, negative nature of Scrooge, and with skillful “range-ability” revealed the lurking charity in the old codger with notable skill. This is what the craft of acting is all about: to exhibit sincere, believable change.
The principal ghost is that of Scrooge’s old partner Jacob Marley, laden with chains, each link made of bills from his accounting desk, and had Don Dowdell torturing the soul of Scrooge very effectively.
He was followed by three ghosts: Christmas Past-Steve Cottonaro, Present-Kyle Petty and Yet-To-Be-Alison Carella. Cottonaro and Petty were outstanding with Cottonaro all over the boards and Petty in royal garb working with dancers. Carella had the somber, deadly part of pointing to gravestones with guess-who’s name on one of them. Carella did it forcefully and with impact.
Mark Slomowitz played Mr. Fezziwig, the contra-Scrooge. Along with his wife, played by Kaylyn Lewis, he held an annual ball full of merry music and dancing. Theirs was the life-affirming attitude. Slomowitz was his usual adaptable self, as when he played Luther Bilis in South Pacific. Lewis is possessed of a powerful singing voice that reached all the way to Sayille … at least.
The loyal, hard-working Cratchit family had its head, Bob, played by Bobby Peterson, Katie Hoffman as his wife and Skylar Greene, Daniel Belyansky and Jack Dowdell (the lovable Tiny Tim) as his children. This grouping was the very opposite of Scrooge. They even toast him at Christmas dinner.
Fred, Scrooge’s nephew, is handled neatly by Joseph Bebry. He was the link between Scrooge’s loneliness and the family. And he brought it off with palpable accuracy.
The ghosts parade Scrooge through his life. At 8, he’s played by Jack Dowdell; at 12 by Daniel Belyansky and at by 18 Matthew W. Surico. This trio managed to sort out just the right tempo to reveal the evolution of Scrooge from promising young businessman to scolding curmudgeon … not an easy acting-directing task. A lot of children and bit players, with many doubling, rounded out the cast.
Notable was Dana Abruzzo as “Blind Hag,” who delivered a Teresias-like prophecy to Scrooge, biting in its impact.
Choreography was done by Kristen Digilio. She moved the characters around the crowded boards with precision and grace. Set design was by the unstoppable Patrick Grossman, who brought out the 19th Century outdoor setting with the same accuracy that showed his talents with non-naturalistic interiors. Overall direction was by Terry Brennan. Her directorial challenge here was with the enormous size of the cast, yet Brennan surmounted it handily.
Outstanding musical numbers included “Link By Link” by Marly, Scrooge and Ghosts. It was a moral, cautionary tale delivered eerily by the two with ethereal accompaniment. Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim’s duo, “You Mean More to Me,” was a tender ballad with understated pathos. “A Place Called Home” by Scrooge at 18 and in old age with Emily, played by Ashley Beard, was a sort of hymn to unrequited love. The lively, merry Mr. Fezziwig’s Annual Ball was a welcome merry romp.
This production was far from an “annual” seasonal show. It represented the essence of technical and aesthetic prowess only to be expected from the folks at CMPAC.
CM Performing Arts Center, 931 Montauk Highway, Oakdale, will present Madison Square Garden’s “A Christmas Carol” through Dec. 29. Tickets range from $20 to $29. For more information, call 631-218-2810 or visit www.cmpac.com.