Charles Jarrett

My View

Scrooge, The Musical! Brings Christmas Kicks, Comedy & Poignancy to the Oakland Hills!

Urchin Choir in Scrooge

This week I have a delightful surprise for you with a totally enjoyable, “spirited” Christmas musical, known as “Scrooge! The Musical”, that is a more current take on an old favorite Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. It seems like every year we’re inundated with Christmas flavored entertainment and of course there are a multitude of theatrical productions of A Christmas  Carol. This old Christmas standard is most certainly expected to be performed by some theater companies which have done it repeatedly year after year. In fact, some people don’t feel as though the Christmas season is properly underway until they’ve seen one of these Christmas stories, either in movie form or on a stage.

This year I had the very good fortune to discover that you can get your Christmas kicks, comedy, poignancy, and music to boot, at a local and thoroughly wonderful community theater production of Scrooge, The Musical, one that is completely free of cost, unless you want to make a donation of some kind, of course. The Temple Hill Cultural Arts Committee presents this production yearly, as part of their “Days of Christmas Events” at the Mormon Temple Auditorium and event center, on the same grounds with the Oakland Mormon Temple. And, no, you don’t have to be a member of the Mormon Church to attend, nor will you be badgered to become acquainted with their beliefs in any way shape or form in order to see this upbeat, delightfully staged, family-friendly musical production of a Christmas Carol story.

Scrooge: The Musical, is a 1992 stage musical production with book, music and lyrics created by English composer Leslie Bricusse, in a version that closely follows the telling of the story that was offered in a 1970 London musical film version, titled simply “Scrooge”, starring Albert Finney as Scrooge. The original stage production at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham, England, starred Anthony Newly as Scrooge. It was quite successful and continued to tour throughout the United Kingdom, Australia, and Ireland for the Christmas seasons beginning in 1992 and continuing through February 1997. The American premier opened at the Ford Center for the performing arts Oriental theater in Chicago in 2004 and has been performed by many professional companies throughout the United States.

The Temple Hill production is a dynamic production consisting of 39 leading and supporting actors, 8 dancers, and at least 26 of the most adorable little “urchins” you will ever see in one theatrical production, all singing their little hearts out. This excellent stage production is under the principal direction of Alan Chipman and Jennifer Brown, assisted by Tom Ferris and Amy Strong. Matt Mackey is the musical director of the excellent 14 piece professional level orchestra with Jarom Nelson assisting as the vocal director. Vicki Millar demonstrates excellent talent as the choreographer in this production.

Ebenezer Scrooge (Chris Pederson) starts off in this production just as nasty and despicable as he is in every production that I’ve ever seen. Pederson has a beautiful deep baritone voice and when he’s not simply berating the citizens in his Elizabethan town, he’s often breaking into song, with subject matter that spurs his sarcasm and spiteful disgust with the general population. The dulcet tones of his voice echoes aloud as two kindly gentlemen request a financial donation from him to help the poor. He angrily retorts, “I wish to be left alone, that is what I wish. I don’t make myself merry at Christmas and I cannot afford to make idle people merry! I’ve been forced to support the establishments I have mentioned through taxation, and God knows they cost more than they are worth! Those who are badly off must go there!” – – – “I hate people!” he reiterates in song as the story moves along!

The principal actors are played much as they are generally played in the nonmusical versions of A Christmas Carol, with just as much vim and vigor and intensity. Bob Cratchit (Kristopher Colianna), Mrs. Cratchit (Amy Strong), all the Cratchit children including tiny Tim (Oscar Blair), and Mr and Mrs Fezziwig (Jarom Nelson and Jennifer Brown), are thoroughly engaging and delightful. Perhaps once again, Jacob Marley (Dan Brown), adorned in all the chains that represent his ill spent life, is one of the most impressive ghosts in this musical version.. The spirit of “Christmas Present” is brought forth by a fun-filled and engaging Deven Halcomb!

Scrooge is invited to take Christmas Present by the hand to see the real world as it really was!

The Christmas Eve redemption theme is basically the same as in a Dickens version, with the hardhearted Scrooge being given special dispensation; another opportunity to correct his faulty vision of life and one final opportunity to redeem himself through the patient and mindful mentoring of three ghosts, the Spirit of Christmas Past (Rebecca Brown), the Spirit of Christmas Present (Deven Halcomb) , and the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come (Roger Hurst).

Everything about this production, the set design and construction, the costumes, the props, the lighting design, the backdrop design and artwork, are all created by the actors and volunteer staff that do this work out of their love of family engagement in the arts. I certainly do not have space in this article to begin to acknowledge all of the talent that put this production together. I am so impressed with it that I have requested that this Temple Hill Cultural Arts Committee keep me appraised of future events and productions.

This show should be a perfect Christmas adventure for you, your children, and grandchildren. There are three remaining productions, with the first at 7:30 PM this coming Friday, November 30th, at a matinee at 1:30 PM on Saturday December 1, accompanied by an evening performance at 7:30 PM that same day. Tickets are completely free and may be secured by going to the www.Eventbrite.com  website and use the search box to input “2018 Scrooge! The Musical”, which will subsequently bring up the ticket acquisition links for you. You will need to register your name and email address online, where you will receive the date and time that you need to be at the theater. The tickets will be downloaded to you one ticket per sheet, so you will need to be able to print them out and take them with you to the theater. If you do not have a way to print out the tickets, no worry, since there is no fee for tickets, and the seating is “open seating, first come, first served”, no one will be refused entry! This is a 1600 seat theater so do not worry about it being too packed to allow anyone to find a seat. The theater opens at 6:30 PM for the 7:30 pm performance and the show’s duration is a proximally 2 ½ hours long with about a 15 to 20 minute intermission. While the church does not charge anything for admission, I strongly recommend that you make some kind of donation while ordering your tickets, as I know you will find the production well worth that gesture. The theater organization receives no funding from the Mormon Church to produce this show, but the facilities are provided rent free, as are the lighting and sound equipment, and its management personnel. The individuals in the production have to pay for all of the materials, paints, and equipment used in making this delightful show a legitimate production. There is plenty of safe parking on the temple grounds adjacent to the Oakland Temple Hill Visitor Center at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which is located at 4780 Lincoln Avenue, Oakland.  The drive to the temple grounds from Rossmoor is roughly 17 miles and 22 minutes by way of Highway 24 and Highway 13 to the Lincoln Avenue exit. The temple grounds are exquisitely decorated with Christmas lighting at this time of year so when you exit at Lincoln Avenue there is no way that you can miss finding the entrance to the grounds. Try it, you’ll like it!

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