A whimsical and pantomimed re-telling of ‘A Christmas Carol’
Piccolo Theatre presents
Review by Anuja Vaidya
Christmas is afoot. And with it comes an overflow of joy, warmth and celebration. Families and friends come together in the spirit of love and gratitude. A haze of elation blankets homes and hearts. Most would agree that it is, in fact, the most wonderful time of the year. Not Ebenezer Scrooge, however. He responds to all this happiness and goodwill with a resounding “Bah, Humbug”. Piccolo Theatre’s production of Bah, Humbug follows Charles Dickens’s timeless story but delivers it in true pantomime style with high-spirited acting, dancing and singing.
The story of Scrooge’s change of heart in “A Christmas Carol” is almost proverbial, but lets run through it one more time. Ebenezer Scrooge, the classic cynic and penny-pincher, must be made to see the error of his ways. According to Dickens, a little help from the friendly neighborhood ghosts of Jacob Marley (his late business partner) and Christmases Past, Present and Future will do the trick. He travels with each ghost and is reminded of who he used to be, is made to see the troubles of those less fortunate than himself and is shown what could be if he does not change.
The pantomime style of this production makes for an extremely lively show. DeChantel Kosmatka’s costumes are as colorful as the characters that populate the stage. Stylized movements and slapstick comedy characterize the acting and dancing. The best bit about the show is that the audience can, nay, must chime in. You are asked to “Boo” the bad guys, whistle and cat call at the Dame and warn the Christmas ghosts whenever Marley’s ghost tries to get at the box of Humbugs. There is no fourth wall, and the actors talk to the audience members and even poke fun at them a little. Piccolo Theatre also plays with the original story a little bit. For example, the Tiny Tim in this production is no pitiable little soul, but rather a sly prankster.
The cast does a hilariously good job. They have wonderful comedic timing and chemistry; hence the physical comedy works well throughout the play. Nathan Thompson plays Scrooge with aplomb, making his change of heart convincing and endearing. Ben Muller as Marley’s ghost, Alyson Grauer as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Paige Reilly as the Ghost of Christmas Present and Kurt Proepper as the Ghost of Christmas Future all provide for some great laugh-out-loud moments.
While children will certainly enjoy the show, with its slapstick humor and perennial message about generosity, this production seems to be more geared towards adults. It even subtly pokes fun at the syrupy sweet moments of the story. Some of the jokes would go right over the heads of little ones. Particularly the comic stylings of Jason Peck, who plays the Dame (Belle Bakewell). Peck puts his stand-up comedy experience to good use in this production and delivers a number of topical jokes during the course of the play.
All in all, this re-telling of the old Christmas favorite stands out and is a great way to kick-off the holiday season. Full of pantomime fun, tongue-in-cheek jokes and Christmas spirit, Bah, Humbug is certainly (as the cliché goes) fun for the whole family!
Bah, Humbug continues through December 22 at Evanston Arts Depot at the Metra Station, 600 Main Street, Evanston (map), with performances Saturdays at 3pm and 7.30pm, Sundays at 3 pm. Tickets are $10-$25 ($65 for 2 adults 2 children), and are available by phone (847-424-0089) or online through PrintTixUSA.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at PiccoloTheatre.com. (Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes, includes an intermission)
Photos by Robert E. Potter III
Nathan Thompson (Scrooge); Jason Peck (Miss Belle Bakewell); Allison Lynn Tyler (Cadgit); Kate McDermott (Beggit); Ben Muller (Jacob Marley); Alyson Grauer (Ghost of Christmas Past, Mrs. Cratchit); Paige Reilly (Christmas Present); Kurt Proepper (Christmas Future); Joshua D. Allard (Policeman); Andrew Huttel (Bob Cratchit); Sarah Grant (Jim Crachit); Claire Hart (Kim Crachit); Genesee Spridco (Tiny Tim Crachit); Sandra Howard (Mrs. Fezziwig); Charlotte Ostrow (Mr. Fezziwig); Emily Bates, James Holbrook (understudies)
behind the scenes
John Szostek (director, Artistic Director, magic and effects, set design); Amanda Kulczewski (managing director, technical consultant); Tony Lawry (education, outreach director); Tabbi Koller (production manager); Stephanie M. Neilitz (stage manager); John Carlin (asst. stage manager); Jason Martin (dialect coach); Vanessa Hughes (choreographer); Rich Maisel (music, lyrics); Nathan Thompson (music consultant); DeChantel Kosmatka (costume design); Ruth Hudson (lighting); Kurt Sharp (scenic painting); Brad Jackson (technical direction, master carpenter); Kelly Claussen (props); Nick Spence (graphics); Rachel Bykowski (marketing coordinator); Joshua D. Allard (administrative, operations assistant); Robert E. Potter III (photographer)