Scrooge in Love
42nd Street Moon, San Francisco, CA, November 28, 2015
Reviewed by Steve Murray
It’s a year later, after the iconic Christmas story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his visit by the three Ghosts who convert his miserly, bitter perspective on life. But something’s still missing in the now jovial, charitable and much beloved character which make for a delightful, fresh approach to the familiar Christmas Carol/Scrooge story. This sequel, with a book by theatre and television writer Duane Pool (A Christmas Memory, Dorian and Love Makes the World Go ‘Round) creates a long lost, but not forgotten romantic interest for Scrooge that drives the action beautifully in Act One. The writing is witty and engaging throughout.
Once again, Scrooge is beset upon by a less angry and more supportive Jacob Marley, played wonderfully by Ryan Drummond. The Ghost of Christmas Past, played with scene stealing charm by Elise Youssef, is a buxom, ditsy cockney lass, singing “I Love Love” and re-introducing Scrooge to his repressed romantic feelings. In flashbacks we witness his younger self meeting the beautiful Belle. Scrooge is what we’ve come to know- a headstrong business man with little time or knowledge of the rigors of courtship. Naturally he blows his once chance at love and sings his lament to missed opportunity in poignant ballad “The Things You Should Have Done”.
The loud and ostentatious Ghost of Christmas Present (Will Springhorn Jr.) enjoins Scrooge (Jason Graae) to “Do It Now”, a carpe diem mantra that spurs the incredulous loner into action. Marley and Scrooge sing the lovely “The Hours in Between”, a contemplation on the little moments that’s make up our lives. Act One ends with the revelation at a gravesite vigil that Belle still has feelings for Scrooge, to which he giddily sings “Sad I’m Dead”.
The set design is simple yet elegant, the stage direction by Dyan McBride on point. The stop action staging is very effective creating an artistic painting tableau. Music direction by Dave Dobrusky is brisk and lively. The familiar characters (The Cratchit family, the Ghosts) are costumed elegantly in the finest Dickensian fare. Jason Graae is a marvel as Scrooge, both funny and somber as he works through his transformational arc. Both Graae, Marley and his younger self (Kalon Thibodeaux) all possess lovely tenors and their acting is top notch. The music, written by Larry Grossman (Minnie’s Boys, Snoopy, the Musical, Paper Moon and A Christmas Memory) with lyrics by Kellen Blair (Murder for Two) is outstanding, with many memorable tunes that national productions will be begging for.
Act Two features a failed reconciliation with Belle (Scrooge is still clumsily inadequate) and he sings of his luxurious but empty life in “A Kitchen Built for Twenty” with its table set for only one. The moral here is that redemption doesn’t cost anything, philanthropy is fine, but charity and love are better. The romantic chasm between Scrooge and Belle is of course resolved for a happy ending when the sing “You Can’t Put a Price on Love”. If you’re looking for another Christmas offering to add to the list of staples, you could do no better than to add this production to your holiday gift basket.