Set and staging steal the show at 2nd Star’s ‘A Christmas Carol’

The set and staging steal the show at 2nd Star Productions’ A Christmas Carol: The Musical. That is almost a shame because the acting, singing, and dancing are also first-rate; however, the special effects in this old classic give the production new life.

Brian Binney as the ghost of Jacob Marley sings
Brian Binney as the ghost of Jacob Marley sings “Link by Link” in 2nd Star Productions’ ‘A Christmas Carol: The Musical.’ Photo by Nate Jackson Photography.

Director Brian Douglas oversees the effects as well. His use of special lighting, such as light-show projections, Jacob Marley’s ghost on the fireplace, and Scrooge’s tomb add a new dimension to the musical. Linda Swann’s costumes also hit the mark in this holiday eye candy.

It is the same classical story given new life thanks to music, dance, and special effects. Ebenezer Scrooge (Gene Valendo) is the banker with two interests: making money and Ebenezer Scrooge. Imagine the one-percent on steroids. Scrooge has ruined his life and those around him with his miserly obsessions. Three ghosts visit during an evening to show him what could have been, what the banker has created, and will happen unless he changes.

Lynn Ahrens and Mike Ockrent penned A Christmas Carol The Musical based on Charles Dickens’ classic novella. Alan Menken provided the music and Ahrens the lyrics. 2nd Star is true to the story which moves quickly with song and dance. Veteran actor Valendo brings Scrooge alive as the character transforms from the master of “Bah Humbug!” to the most generous man in London. Brian Binney, as the ghost of Jacob Marley, stands out in “Link by Link.”

Choreographer Kristin Rigsby and her ghost dancers (Andrew Wilson, Kelsey Meiklejohn, Rowan Hastings, Crista Drysdale, Robbie Dinsmore, Erin Culfogienis and Nathan Bowen) planted the seed to scare Scrooge straight during “Link by Link.” The company took place in a wonderful dance during “Fezziwig’s Annual Christmas Ball.”

Valendo joins Young Scrooge (Davis Wootton-Klebanoff) and his fiancé, Emily (Laura Reiss) in a touching “A Place Called Home.”

John Wakefield as the Ghost of Christmas Present sings
John Wakefield as the Ghost of Christmas Present sings “Abundance and Charity” in 2nd Star Productions’ ‘A Christmas Carol: The Musical.’ Photo by Nate Jackson Photography.

John Wakefield threatens to steal the show with his scene as the Ghost of Christmas Present. He brings stage presence, energy, and a depth of emotion to the role. Wakefield bellows a soulful rendition of “Abundance and Charity” to close the first act. Wakefield, like most characters, played multiple roles. Only Scrooge and Tiny Tim (Delaney McGinnis) had single roles.

When A Christmas Carol was published in 1843, the Director’s Note claims, “Dickens meant it to be a harsh criticism of how the poor were mistreated by the upper classes. Scrooge fails to see the increasing gap between rich and poor, the struggle of the working man just to survive, and exactly how, as a wealthy man, he might help those less fortunate.”

Douglas makes no jump between economic and social classes in 1840s London and America’s most radical presidential candidates’ statements today, but it doesn’t take much imagination to find a launching point for a post-production conversation.

Running Time: One hour and 40 minutes, with one 20-minute intermission.

A Christmas Carol: The Musical, presented by 2nd Star Productions, plays through December 14 at the Bowie Playhouse, 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, Bowie, MD. For tickets call (301) 832-4819 or purchase them online.

Blind Hag, Rhonda Bentley-Wardlaw; Ghost of Christmas Past, Allison Erskine; Bob Cratchit, Josh Hampton; Banker, Bob Hardy; Banker, Jenna Jones Paradis; Mr. Fezziwig, Eric Meadows; Mrs. Mops, Karen Monteith; Mrs. Fezziwig, Spencer Nelson; Jonathan, Chase Nestor; Martha Cratchit, Samantha Roberts; Child Scrooge, Arthur Titus; Ignorance, Brannon Titus; Want, Charlie Titus; Cratchit child, Rowan Titus; Poulterer, Andrea Trent; Adolescent Scrooge, Andrew Wilson. Music direction by Mimi McGinnis.

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