We’re all familiar with the story that seems to have existed forever: Ebenezer Scrooge, the crankiest, most hateful miser in all of London, is visited by his late partner Jacob Marley and then by three ghosts who lead him to see that there’s more to life than money. If you haven’t read the book, then you’ve surely seen one of the myriad movie and stage adaptations. Some are traditional, such as the beloved 1951 film entitled Scrooge, starring Alistair Sims, while many others adapt the story to more modern times, such as Bill Murray’s Scrooged. Even Disney has tackled the story no less than twice.
But The Actors Guild of Parkersburg is taking on a lesser known version of the classic tale in Scrooge: The Musical. It is based on the 1971 movie starring Albert Finney that can still be found on television every Christmas season. While it does take some liberties with the original story, the satisfying story of the redemptive quality of Christmas is all there, along with several delightful musical numbers.
At the center of the story, obviously is parsimonious Ebenezer Scrooge, played quite energetically by George Litman. The audience easily believes as the show opens that Scrooge loves “M.O.N.E.Y.” and hates people, even his kind, if a bit mischievous, nephew, played more than ably by Sam Kinker. In an interesting twist on the original story, the Christmas past scenes have Kinker playing young Ebenezer, while the remarkable Edain Campbell plays his love interest in the past and then the nephew’s wife in the present.
One character who very nearly steals the show is Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s long-dead partner, a man who, before he died exactly seven Christmas Eves earlier, was every bit the skinflint that Scrooge was. It is he who somehow procures this opportunity for Scrooge to turn his life around before it’s too late. A huge part of the appeal is the dynamic performance of Bob Francis. He plays the part with amazing vivacity and, at the same time, great desolation. We really feel his misery at knowing how he wasted his life as well as the spark of hope that he can push Scrooge to redeem his cold, heartless existence. But Francis’ performance is enhanced by the shockingly ghoulish makeup and costume he’s in. I was genuinely taken aback when he walked on the stage for the first time. All the makeup and costumes were quite impressive, as well as the set (despite that darned uncooperative door), but Marley’s look was possibly the best work I’ve ever seen at the Guild.
As with many musicals, even the crotchety old Scrooge is played a bit more for laughs than Dickens’ original, but he’s still enough of a tightwad and a crank to make his redemption just as remarkable. Mr. Litman’s performance is quite good, as are everyone else’s in this production, and that’s a lot of people. I have no idea if this is a record for largest cast, but it has to approach it, and not one person does a poor job. Even the children, some looking to be as young as six or so, do great work.
This show is a stellar way to start the holiday season. You should make every effort to see it, starting this Friday, November 11. It plays until Sunday, November 27. Unlike most shows, there are matinees all three weekends of its run, so there are lots of opportunities to get a seat, but musicals often sell out, so don’t wait long!