VALLEJO — What a difference a year makes.
I had to go back and read my review of Bay Area Stage’s “Scrooge the Musical” from last year, because while I remember it was a good show, this year’s version just seemed better.
I really couldn’t put my finger on exactly why, though. Could it be that I preferred Buddy Nash, who played the title role this year over BAS co-founder and play director Jeff Lowe? Well, I don’t know – they were both very good as the miser-turned-merrymaker.
There were some cast changes and the stage didn’t seem quite so cluttered with people as last year, but it is the same musical. Now, there was a packed house last Sunday afternoon, which was the first time I have experienced that at Mira and maybe that had something to do with it.
It just seemed that everything – the actors, the music, the set, the lighting, the sound design – just clicked. The show just seemed to be “on” and when it all was said and done and bows were taken, they succeeded in delivering an entertaining classic that engaged and delighted the audience.
The aforementioned Buddy Nash was brilliant as the vile titular character and in addition to his powerfully emotive voice, always appropriate mannerisms and hilarious asides, the man just seemed to be the 1843 curmudgeon.
The Christmasy vibe began when the cast poured into the theater during the opening number, “A Christmas Carol,” resplendent in their period costumes (designer Stacey Loew). Butchers, toy shop makers, Punch and Judy puppeteers – all helped to create the illusion of 19th century London.
Scott Slagle once again sparkled in the role of Bob Cratchit and lended his bright tenor voice to the song “Christmas Children” and others.
Thomas Lea, as the ghost of Scrooge’s old business partner Jacob Marley, was creepy and effective and his costume had a bit of an Edward Scissorhands feel to it.
The respective Ghosts of Christmases were all brought to life so well. Margaret Nash, as The Ghost of Christmas Past, displayed her pipes on “Love While You Can.” Obdulio Butler Jr., as The Ghost of Christmas Present, was delightful in his flowing robe, sultan-like hat and chalice with the Milk of Human Kindness. His booming voice sounded great at the Mira as well. Gene Cismowski, as The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, did a nice job emoting even though his character had a robe and skeleton mask.
I loved the visual effect of the fog, but it was also nice that they opened the door at intermission to let it dissipate.
Skyler Hebron, as Tiny Tim Crachit, nailed “The Beautiful Life” in a high angelic voice. William Jones, as the younger Ebenezer, was wonderful and the harmonies he and Buddy Nash shared on “You-You” were gloriously haunting.
I always love it when a character lights up the stage in a smaller role the way Brian O’Reilly did as Mr. Fezziwig.
Musical director extraordinaire Cynthia Heath was joined by Rod Verette on bass and Bob Nadler on percussion. I almost always prefer to hear musicals with live accompaniment, especially when it is rendered so well.
As I stated before, the “vibe,” for lack of a better word, was clicking and from the audience cracking up at some of the asides by Scrooge to their spirited clapping along with the signature song “Thank You Very Much,” BAS’s “Scrooge: the Musical” delivered a rousing version of the tale of Christmas redemption.
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at [email protected]