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BGSU 'Christmas Carol' sings PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sentinel-Tribune Staff   
Thursday, 29 November 2012 11:20
Cast members during opening act of Christmas Carol at BGSU's Donnell Theatre of the Wolfe Center for the Arts. (Photos: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Just in time for the holidays Scrooge is returning to his old haunts at Bowling Green State University.
While the Department of Theatre's production of "A Christmas Carol" has a new home in the Donnell Theatre in the Wolfe Center, the scenery with its askew London storefronts, and many costumes are recycled from previous productions.
Which is not to say this is the same old show. The university's "Carols" are ever a work in progress with subtle and not so subtle tweaks and shifts of tone. And there's always a new Scrooge and Tiny Tim and the rest. This year they return to Margaret McCubbin's adaptation with Geoff Stephenson directing.
The show opens tonight at 8 and continues Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. with matinees at 2 on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $10.
Jeff LaRocque does the honors as Scrooge. He's an angry, belligerent, rather agitated Scrooge with little sense of sarcasm about him, who turns soft at the first memories of bygone days. In the scene where his sweetheart Belle (Janina Bradshaw breaks off their engagement the spectral Scrooge tries to advise his younger self (Chad Campbell).
Jeff LaRocque as Scrooge with Eric Batts as Bob Crachit
Narrators Eli Brickey and Tyler Stouffer perform on stage at BGSU’s Donnell Theatre in the  opening scene of “A Christmas Carol.”
With narrator Jake Sabinsky front and center the cast of ‘A Christmas Carol’ gathers on stage
His Scrooge fits well with the tone of the production which plays up the comic, rather than spooky aspects. That comedy was evident at the start when Ethan Brown strolled on stage to give the standard instructions about emergency exits and cell phones to the audience. Then the cast of about three-dozen bursts forth from the back of the house singing. This establishes the festive, convivial mood that predominates.
The conceit of the production is that this is a troupe staging this. Four narrators - Jake Sabinsky, J.J. Luster, Eli Brickey and Tyler Stouffer - divvy up the scene setting provided by Charles Dickens. I know the amount of narration in various productions is always a matter of debate. As a lover of the book, I'm inclined to favor more rather than less. Dickens' turns of phrase are as important as the music and lighting to establish the atmosphere of the piece.
The four narrators sound like they're just telling you a bedtime story.
The plot itself is so well known - I don't have to worry about spoiler alerts, I hope - and so twisted to other uses, I need not rehearse it here. Still it's always welcome to have the story presented largely untouched.
We have the browbeaten clerk Bob Crachit (Eric Batts) and Scrooge's effusive nephew Fred, as full of holiday vim and vigor as his uncle is of ill-tempered humbug.
Some of the hauntings, especially that of Marley's Ghost (Luster) prompt chuckles of recognition. Maybe it's a lost cause to hope that this could ever be scary again.
The lighter touch is especially evident in the scene with Old Joe (Gibbs) where the undertaker's helper (C.J. Barrett), laundress (Chelsea Herzog) and charwoman (Libbie Ruch) all pawn items pinched from Scrooge as he lay dead, and play the scene for laughs, without the sinister undertone.
The story inevitably ends up as a progression of set pieces with the party at Fezziwigs with its "Good King Wenceslas" skit featuring a young Scrooge and Fezziwig (Vince Gibbs), the dance and ending chorale being the most elaborate.
The most touching scenes are those featuring the Crachit brood - Kerbie Minor as his wife with Logan Richardson, Mary Ritchey, Skylar Frishman, Grayson Frishman and Rose Walters. Bob Walters as Tiny Tim gets the show's big line. All that's demanded of Tiny Tim is he be cute and enunciate that one "God bless us, everyone!" Based on the ah-reaction he elicited he filled the bill though knowing the extent of this pint-sized thespian's acting chops I found myself wishing he had more to do.
Musical director Jared Dorotiak has relied on traditional English carols fitting of the time. Two minstrels, fiddler Mike Dandron and guitarist Mikey Espinosa, are on stage much of the time providing accompaniment to the vocalists.
The chorale singing is lustrous, full of rich harmonies. Stephenson likes to surrounded the audience with singers and let them loose. For me the highlight though was the brief scene set in a Welsh mine where two females (Herzog and Gretchen Davison) sing an evocative and aching Welsh melody with harmonies by Libby Ruch, Matt Sierra and Jeff Sneed.
The play ends with voices all around singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" having already delivered 100 minutes or so of holiday cheer.

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