Village Players present a light and lively ‘Scrooge!’

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Published Dec. 10, 2018

There have been dozens of versions of “A Christmas Carol” since Charles Dickens first published the classic tale of redemption in 1843.

The Mukwonago Players are staging a musical version, called “Scrooge! The Musical,” with book, music and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse.  The dramatic musical was first presented as a 1970 film, “Scrooge,” starring Albert Finney. The stage musical followed in 1992.

Combining adults and a bunch of children from area schools, the production is a light and lively version of what is often a dark and brooding ghost story.

The sets, costumes and lighting contain brighter colors than most productions, adding to the festive feel of the show, directed by Pat Hitt, in the brand-new Greenwald Foundation Performing Arts Center.

There are 19 songs in the show, mostly well-performed by the nine-piece orchestra, under the direction of Matt Byczynski, and the cast. Hally Kelly is the music and vocal director.

Most all the scenes and lines that audiences have come to know and love in the story are intact. Several come early on when Scrooge’s nephew pays him a visit, including: “"Every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart” and “There is no such thing as rich enough, only poor enough.”

As Scrooge, Ted Cefalu has all the characteristics of the crusty, consummate miser. From the start, Cefalu captures Scrooge’s irritable nature – chasing away children, chiding his employee Bob Cratchit (Trevor Waltho II) and arguing with his nephew (Danny Slattery) about the merits of Christmas. In the tune “M.O.N.E.Y.” we learn about Scrooge’s tight-fistedness as he sings, “I’m convinced that everyone is out to rob me blind.”

The musical embellishes scenes of Scrooge’s hard-hearted business dealings as he goes around the town square with his ledger, reminding merchants of the money he is owed, dismissing their pleas for more time. Here we meet a whole host of characters, including Tom Jenkins (Bill Payne), who returns in Act 2 to lead a rousing “Thank You Very Much,” in which Scrooge’s borrowers are all rejoicing in his death.

Marley’s (Dave Loomis) appearance in Scrooge’s bedroom is preceded by some nice effects, but his presence is not quite so scary. Loomis sings well in “Make the Most of This World,” in a scene with the phantoms that is more whimsical than frightening.

Shelly Waltho (Trevor’s wife) is a fitting Ghost of Christmas Present with a lovely voice as she brings Scrooge to scenes from his childhood, including the party at his employer, Fezziwig’s, played with verve and some really sharp, well-executed dance moves by Kyle Forster.

Slattery, who also plays the young adult Ebenezer, renders a passionate “You-You” as he is rejected by Isabel (Kelly Kuczkowski) for loving his money more than her. Slattery and Cefalu provide nice harmony on the pleasant, heartfelt tune.

At the end of Act 1, Scrooge enjoys a cupful of the Milk of Human Kindness from the Ghost of Christmas Present, Craig Forster, who delivers some fine vocals to go along with his hearty laugh.

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Christmas Present returns in Act 2 to lead Scrooge to the Cratchits, where Mrs. Cratchit (Brookellen Teuber) reluctantly toasts Scrooge. At the family dinner table Tiny Tim, played by Leah Witte, sings a sweet “Beautiful Day.”

Perhaps the most fun and lively scene is “The Minister’s Cat,” a sort of musical chairs game played by Scrooge’s nephew and his guests. The group handles all the tricky movements of the delightful number wonderfully.

That lively number is followed by “Thank You Very Much,” featuring some of Peggy Morgan-Strimple’s spirited choreography.

As with the Marley scene, the scene with The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come includes some of Craig Forster’s fog and lightning effects. Cefalu shows off his strong, pitch-perfect vocals in the “I’ll Begin Again” song, which completes Scrooge’s transformation.

The finale is a departure from most versions, as Scrooge appears as Father Christmas, a Santa Claus-like character, and goes about town forgiving debts, helping the poor with donations and delivering a load of gifts to the Cratchit family. This is a joyous celebration and Cefalu embodies Scrooge’s new joie de vivre as he becomes “light as a feather” whirling about the town square in a state of pure joy.

Some scenes perhaps could’ve been more intimate in staging, maybe using more focused lighting, such as the Marley and Cratchit home segments. Also, from my vantage, it was easy to see some characters behind the scenes, which affected the dramatic impact. And while Slattery did a fine job with both Scrooge’s nephew and the young adult Scrooge, it might have been better to have separate performers for those important roles.

Nonetheless, a large Sunday matinee crowd was treated to a fine production, fortunately one not affected by the pond that was created in the lobby by a sprinkler malfunction. Firefighters needed to check for any possible danger, moving the start of the show back less than 10 minutes. PAC director Julie Hanish did a nice job of informing the audience of the incident.

Adding to the festive flavor of the show, complementary cookies and beverages were served during intermission.

If you go

Who: Village Players and Gracenotes Orchestra

What: “Scrooge! The Musical”

When: Through Dec. 16

Where: Greenwald Performing Arts Center at Mukwonago High School