Holiday spirit abounds at the Byham Theater! Pittsburghers greet the season with a classical tale starring a cast of captivating characters and tremendous singing. A Musical Christmas Carol is a gateway to all things Christmas. The CLO kicked off their 25th anniversary inaugural performance to a packed house on Friday December 9. Enticing a second generation of guests, the musical rendition of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol welcomes repeat patrons and many performers who return to the stage, reviving their roles for a second, third or sixth season. The CLO honors a quarter century of performances by unveiling a handsome new set and innovative special effects that will not disappoint. All the while maintaining the charm and inspiration of characters Ebenezer Scrooge, the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come and the wise, young Tiny Tim.
Together, Patrick Page as Ebenezer Scrooge and Jeffrey Howell cast as the gentle and hardworking Bob Cratchit, are a forceful presence, depicting both the ‘ba humbug’ attitude and the poor but contented father, with energy and conviction. Tim Hartman portrays a gregarious Mr. Fezziwig and a surprisingly frightening Ghost of Christmas Present. Terry Wickline cast as both Mrs. Dilber and the zealous Mrs. Fezziwig and Daniel Krell as the commanding Ghost of Marley help draw the audience deeper into the story. The artistic energy between Hartman and Wickline, as Mr. and Mrs. Fizziwig is perfectly timed. Their playful banter evokes warm returns of laughter from the audience. The children own their roles with polish and professionalism, especially Marco Attilio Petrucci, making his theatrical debut as Tiny Tim, the youngest Cratchit child who ultimately influences Scrooge’s change of heart.
Performance highlights include Krell, as the ghost of Jacob Marley, emerging from the floor, an aura of smoke clouding the stage. His booming voice calls out “Scrooge!” and nearly stuns the audience. It is an ominous scene that enthralled me. As the show progressed with each specter’s appearance, I was taken aback by how down right creepy the spirits are; nothing like the angelic image I anticipated from a Christmas themed story. The contrast between the hauntings, enhanced with dim lightning and lots of smoke, against the colorful and jubilant costumes of the Carolers was mesmerizing. So, what would be A Musical Christmas Carol without Carolers? The enchanting ensemble files through the theater and onto the stage dressed in authentic attire; men sporting top hats and suits and women in full skirts and capes. Their resounding voices are a glistening accoutrement next to the dark hauntings and despicable demeanor of Scrooge.
Since this was my first time attending A Musical Christmas Carol I have nothing to compare from previous years but in regard to the set, I found the design of Scrooge’s residence magnificent. His over-sized and stately bed and the neatly arranged parlor chairs represent his abundances in true Victorian fashion compared to the drab and sparsely decorated home of the Cratchit family. I also particularly enjoyed the London street vendors who further added color and life to the mise-en-scene.
Never mind what you already know of the plot of A Christmas Carol. This show is A Musical Christmas Carol and includes many glorious musical selections delivered alongside an all- star cast. Dickens messages of charity, humility, forgiveness and family resonate throughout making this a perfect holiday event no matter your age or creed.
A Musical Christmsa Carol runs at the Byham Theater through December 23rd. For tickets and more information click here.
Photos courtesy of Matt Polk.