Get in the holiday spirit with ‘Scrooge’ musical
By Kathleen Allen. Originally published by the Arizona Daily Star.
Well, this was a surprise.
We hadn’t expected to like Arizona Theatre Company’s production of Scrooge!. It’s a Christmas cliché and a too-obvious grasp for a holiday money-maker.
But we couldn’t help it: We liked it. We really liked it.
The musical is based on the 1970 movie starring Albert Finney as the old miser (which in turn was based on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.)
Scrooge! was penned by Leslie Bricusse, the genius behind the music from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and loads of other stories and songs. He went on to do a not-very-successful stage version of Scrooge! in 1992 and the 2022 animated version.
ATC’s Artistic Director Matt August has wanted to bring a revised version of the ’92 play to the stage for a long time, and he worked with Bricusse to pump up the script before the composer died in 2021.
August, who directed this production, tweaked it quite a bit, but kept much of the original script.
There’s a lot that’s impressive about this production, especially Tony-winning actor Shuler Hensley. His voice is gorgeous, his acting sublime, and he made the journey from miser to altruist smooth and believable.
This is a massive cast — 30 players — packed with Arizona actors. Among them was Aaron Cammack, who played the soup man, Tom Jenkins. He moved to Tucson a few years back and we are lucky that his talent is so accessible to theater lovers here. He can sing, dance and act effortlessly and he exudes a warmth on stage — even when he danced on Scrooge’s coffin and led the ensemble in singing “Thank You Very Much,” a song of gratitude for Scrooge dying.
There are a good number of children in the cast, and to the person they listened and stayed rooted to their characters. Especially notable were Beni Bermudez from Gilbert, who brought Tiny Tim’s sweetness to life, and Jacquelyn “Jax” Fuchs, an 11-year-old from Phoenix who overflowed with personality.
The whole ensemble impressed, and August’s direction was smooth and focused on clarity so that the story was never lost. That’s difficult, sometimes, with such a huge cast.
But it wasn’t the actors alone who made this production so successful.
Elizabeth Caitlin Ward wowed with her costume designs, from the Victorian gowns to the outlandish costumes for the ghosts, which all paid homage to the spirits in the original movie but took them to the next level.
Scenic Designer Jason Ardizzone-West brought 1840s London alive, and Brad Peterson’s projection designs made Scrooge’s treks to the past, present and future seem as ghostly as Dickens intended.
This is a joyous production.