Thursday, December 10, 2009

REVIEW: " A Country Christmas Carol"

Christmas definitely turns country with the Players Theatre’s charming holiday tale "A Country Christmas Carol," now playing through Dec. 20.

Set in fictional Marley County during 1954, this lighthearted musical follows the cheerful inhabitants of the county and its resident ne’re do well Eb Scrooge (Doug Nelson).

Holiday cheer and country accents abound until Eb, who owns the savings and loan and the local hotel, shows up and spoiling everyone’s fun time and again. The musical — directed by Jeffery Kin — follows the traditional Charles Dicken’s "A Christmas Carol," but puts its own entertaining country spin on things.

For instance, Eb lives in the hotel he owns. There’s no Bob Cratchit, but rather a young widower named Bobbie Jo Cratchit (Jennifer Baker) who works for the cruel-hearted Scrooge. Timmy isn’t crippled. And the Ghost of Christmas present wears a cowboy hat.

Oh, and there’s a festive singing contest.

Once the musical gets into the main story of Eb, it takes a few scenes before it really finds its fuel, and it’s worth the wait. The ensemble does a great job during the many songs and Christmas carols in the production with Baker especially showcasing her beautiful vocal talents in a variety of songs. Cast members, who play multiple roles, boasts several lively performances given by Chip Fisher as Eb’s nephew Dwight and the younger Eb; Channing Weir as Jane Cratchit, Brandon Reid as Tim Cratchit (both Weir and Reid have an amusing brother/sister chemistry during the show); Betty Comora as the spunky Ghost of Christmas Past; Peter Horstman as the Radio Man; Mike Phelan as Charley and the talents of Phyllis Banks who lights up the stage as Lavinia.

This production will make you fall in love with every character on the stage, even Eb. Nelson plays the hard-nosed Scrooge well, and makes the transition to the softer Scrooge nicely during the show as he starts to understand how generosity is the real gift of Christmas.

For those looking for something different, yet jolly on area stages this Christmas season, this show is for you.
-January Holmes

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