NSMT’s ‘Carol’: A holiday present for theater-goers

Ebenezer Scrooge (David Coffee) watches the Cratchit family celebrate Christmas in “A Christmas Carol” at North Shore Music Theatre. Photo © Paul Lyden

Ebenezer Scrooge (David Coffee) watches the Cratchit family celebrate Christmas in “A Christmas Carol” at North Shore Music Theatre. Photo © Paul Lyden

BEVERLY —There are runs. And then there are long runs. And there are shows that seemingly can run forever.

The North Shore Music Theatre’s adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” through Dec. 21 seems to be ingrained into the North Shore’s holiday fabric.
Jon Kimbell, NSMT’s retired artistic director who was the main architect of the adaptation, has returned 25 year after the first production to helm this 24th edition, and he and the show have lost nothing off their fastball.
Kimbell, having created the show, knows every nook and cranny and he is as comfortable as if he is donning a pair of warm slippers.

David Coffee (Ebenezer Scrooge) and Freddie Kimmel (Jacob Marley) in A CHRISTMAS CAROL at North Shore Music Theatre from December 5 - December 21, 2014. Photo © Paul Lyden.

David Coffee (Ebenezer Scrooge) and Freddie Kimmel (Jacob Marley) in A CHRISTMAS CAROL at North Shore Music Theatre from December 5 – December 21, 2014. Photo © Paul Lyden.

David Coffee, the Texan whose appearance on the North Shore has become a harbinger of the holidays, is portraying Ebenezer Scrooge for the 21st time and his reputation — and applause — precedes his first “bah, humbug.”
He’s like a fine wine. The role is so ingrained Coffee is able to mine laughs where there were none before with an arched eyebrow, an inflection, a pause.
He has changed his Scrooge a bit over the years to make him seem a little bit less hard-hearted almost from the very beginning, even before Jacob Marley and The Ghosts begin to work their magic on him.
Kimbell has done some tweaking as he promised, with a new opening number and a bell-ringing scene I don’t recall before among several changes
The original music and the period music are lovingly played by Milton Granger and his associates and the special effects remain spectacular. Freddie Kimmel makes a rip-roarin’, high-flying, howling entrance as Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s late business partner whose ghost returns to warn Scrooge to change his ways, and his entrance would wake the dead, thanks to the flying by ZFX Flying and pyrotechnics from Atlas Fireworks.
And check out the holograms used to depict Marley’s image on Scrooge’s door.
Any production that gives the silken-voiced Leigh Barrett two chances to sing — once as the Ghost of Christmas Present and the other as Mrs. Cratchit — knows what it’s doing.
Russell Garrett gives warmth and depth to Bob Cratchit and Bronson Norris Murphy makes a spirited Fred, Scrooge’s nephew.
Peter Adams, who earned his Equity card 25 years ago in the first “Christmas Carol,” makes for a hale and hearty Ghost of Christmas Present, but we fans of George Dvorsky await his return.
Tommy Labanaris is fine as the Narrator, Tiny Tim as an adult looking back over the events of that Christmas Eve, and there is also solid support from J.T. Turner as Fezziwig.
Youth is well-represented with Jake Flynn as Tiny Tim, Giacomo Favazza as Boy Scrooge, and Jillian Furber as Martha Cratchit.
And while this is Coffee’s 21st time playing Scrooge in the production, Cheryl McMahon, who was in the first production of the piece 25 years ago, is also performing for the 21st time, and her scenes as Scrooge’s bewildered housekeeper Mrs. Dilber are as delightful as ever.
At one point Coffee plants a big, wet kiss on her and does a jig as he again celebrates his redemption from miserly cur to “as good a master as the old town ever saw.”
McMahon also shines in the production number “Isn’t it Grand, Boys?” with John-Michael Breen as Old Joe.
There is another tradition that thankfully has survived through the years: Coffee’s habit after the show of greetings patrons as he takes a “victory lap” around the stage, greeting old friends and thanking those in attendance.
NSMT’s adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” remains the area’s premier holiday attraction, the heavyweight champion of Christmas shows, and a big present under your theatrical Christmas tree.
The North Shore Music Theatre production of “A Christmas Carol,” a Musical Ghost Story. Adapated from the Dickens novella by Jon Kimbell, assisted by David James and David Zoffoli. Original music by Alby Potts and James Woodland. Other credits : ,John MacInnis (Choreographer), Milton Granger(Music Direction), Howard C. Jones (Original Scenic Design), Paula Peasley-Ninestein (Resident Costume Designer), Jack Mehler (Lighting Design), Leon Rothenberg (Sound Design), Gerard Kelly (Original Wig and Hair Design), Phill Madore (Production Stage Manager), Kevin P. Hill (Associate Director/Choreographer).At the North Shore Music Theatre through Dec. 21. http://www.nsmt.org.

 

 

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