By Matt Murray and Jeremy Diamond
Directed and Choreographed by Tracey Flye
A Ross Petty Production. At the Elgin Theatre,
November 30-December 31, 2017
Forget about Charles Dickens’s original fable. This mash-up musical does have a Scrooge loose (as the poster claims) and it does have the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future (all played by that zany camp genius Dan Chameroy) but that’s about the only real connections to Dickens. No matter for anyone who has long revelled in Ross Petty’s wildly warped pantos, where the music comes from pop charts and where some of the most fun is generated by parody commercials (and Ross Petty appears in one to prove that he has not given up the ghost in performance) and by a loosey-goosey script that creates a plot that defies cohesion, though it has more than a fair share of adult jokes that zip over the heads of youngsters who, I suspect, would rather boo or cheer or dance in their seats.
Anyway, in a nutshell, here’s a very brief summary of the nutty story: Scrooge (Cyrus Lane who is best as a straight-faced foil to Chameroy’s drag Plumbum) heads Scrooge Enterprises that has only the greediest ambition to control all of Christmas. His assistant, Bob Cratchit (the ever-returning comic elf, Eddie Glen), has invented an app called Christmas Crush that will turn every child into an addict under Scrooge’s evil spell. Cratchit hopes to earn his freedom from thralldom to the old miser by this invention, though he himself is no angel: he uses the Humbug singers to raise money for a fake charity—that he calls his own “sweet charity.” Of course, the Ghosts appear to haunt the miser, but these ghosts are really deliciously crazy in a way that only Dan Chameroy can sell in his inimitable over-the-top improvs and double-entendres that have not only adults rolling in the aisles but some of the cast “corpsing” as well—including Lane’s beanpole miser.
There’s a romantic subplot as well—this one involving Jane, a Scrooge Enterprises employee who is a Citizen Jane of righteous feminism, in that she very justifiably campaigns for equal pay for women. A.J. Bridel, who is a one-woman enterprise all her own, plays her like a Norma Rae heroine, but with a winning beauty, who doesn’t stop with placards, but one who sings and dances her feisty way against chauvinistic or awkward men. Her romantic foil is handsome but romantically awkward Jack (Kyle Golemba), a wrapper in the literal sense, who has the right profile but the wrong pitch for his songs and wooing.
The best fresh invention in the plot is the incarnation of Jacob Marley as a sexy Jamaican with dreadlocks and lyrical voice and movement. David Lopez, who plays him to the hilt, also does the best song performance in his “Despacito” number, though Bridel’s singing is not far behind. And director Tracey Flye also shapes the choreography, serving up twists, rock, and a fusion of other dance styles.
The set, costumes, and videography are gaudy, to say the least, but gaudiness is the least of the problems with this nutty panto. Best to keep the spirit of strict criticism away from the madcap nonsense on stage—such as Glen’s parody of Ellen Degeneres (Helen Sogenerous, anyone?) and the female trio of Ghostdusters. If you want more of such wild antic comedy, there’s Plumbum’s parody of “Thriller,” though even this number isn’t quite in the right key. But this is the Christmas season, isn’t it—though this show wants to turn it into a season of topical news about gender equality, fake news (yes, there’s that ugly spirit of the current White House hovering over certain moments), capitalist greed, etc. Just wish that these themes didn’t create a rather haphazard plot and didn’t carry us so far away from Dickens, whose original fable always has its own heart in the right place. Isn’t it always about the human heart, anyway?