Stage review: Pittsburgh CLO's 'Musical Christmas Carol' sparkles at 25
December 13, 2016 12:00 AM
Tim Hartman provides comic relief as Mr. Fezziwig in Pittsburgh CLO's "A Musical Christmas Carol," which turned 25 in 2016.
Broadway actor Patrick Page as Scrooge and Daniel Krell as the ghost of Jacob Marley in Pittsburgh CLO's 25th anniversary edition of "A Musical Christmas Carol."
By Sharon Eberson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Reliable signs that it’s Christmastime in Downtown Pittsburgh include outdoor ice skating and a holiday market, the Horne’s — yes, Horne’s — tree lighting up the night and Pittsburgh CLO’s “A Musical Christmas Carol” back at the Byham Theater for its 25th year.
To celebrate the quarter century of the Dickens classic and seasonal carols, mashed up with humor and a few scares by writer, director and choreographer David H. Bell, the set has been refurbished, the special effects have a new sheen and a new voice has entered the scene as Ebenezer Scrooge: Broadway actor Patrick Page. It’s a truly delightful sound when, after experiencing his deep resonant voice, he unleashes peals of laughter that for Scrooge have been bottled up for decades.
Pittsburgh CLO’s production honors the novel with passages straight from the book, but also pounces on opportunities for comedy, thanks in no small part to Tim Hartman and Terry Wickline in multiple roles. A newer member of the company’s family, Luke Halferty (CLO Cabaret’s “First Date,” “The 39 Steps”) makes the difficult transformation of young, earnest Scrooge into the lonely, hateful miser headed toward a collision course with three ghosts on Christmas Eve.
All were in great voice on opening night, and I saw tears in the eyes of one theatergoer whose heart was breaking with the Cratchits — the invaluable Jeff Howell and Lisa Ann Goldsmith as the parents of Tiny Tim, played by adorable first-timer Marco Attilio Petrucci, a third-grader at St. Therese School in Munhall.
The source material has stood the test of time not only because it’s about hope and redemption, but also because it’s one of literature’s best ghost stories. Jacob Marley (Daniel Krell, another veteran of the production), who has some of the show’s big scares, gets some aerodynamic help with his exit.
If you are a patron of “Musical Christmas Carol’s” past, you will no doubt recognize a few new bells and whistles and design pieces. Some of the onstage magic of the fine-tuned show, under the direction of Mark Fleischer, is that no caroler was harmed as they often moved into place just as overhead pieces were lowered to frame them.
Besides Mr. Page and young Marco, another newcomer to the cast of two dozen is New York actor Allan Snyder as one of those carolers. He was last seen at the CLO Cabaret as Richard Hannay in “The 39 Steps” and is a recent transplant to Pittsburgh.
The show moves along apace against the backdrop of clutter representing Scrooge’s acquisitions, often with the effect of something new constantly coming into view in every direction. If there is a minor quibble, it’s that after the splashy entrances of the Ghosts of Christmas Past (Allison Cahill) and Present (Mr. Hartman), the arrival of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come — all in black and so much like the Grim Reaper — is hard to make out against a dark backdrop.
Pittsburgh CLO chief Van Kaplan introduced the production on opening night, announcing that the company’s $10 million capital campaign was 95 percent complete, with some of the results to be seen in the new set pieces onstage, many homemade at the Springdale workshop.
The new touches arrive as a gift wrap to this showcase, which glistens even brighter in its 25th year.
Sharon Eberson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1960. Twitter: @SEberson_pg.
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