What: The Carols with book and lyrics by Jennifer Child and music by Monica Stephenson
Where: Off The Wall Productions at Carnegie Stage (Carnegie)
When: This Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8pm (December 12-14th)
Quick verdict: Killer-diller!
Reviewed by Gulliver [email protected]
With all the hi-tech we live with these days, it’s refreshing to see a show that reminds you how much can be done with excellent writing and composing, the unadulterated human voice, a solid pair of hands on the piano, and a time period that precludes the use of smartphones by the characters. Of course there is much more to this pocket musical which is supported by excellent direction, a fine set, and some great costuming. All of this, together with the outstanding performances make, for a great evening.
It’s the homefront in 1944 and three very distinct sisters are determined to stage their version of A Christmas Carol for different reasons. But their scroogy elder is calling humbug. This is a very ambitious musical that hits its mark with extreme confidence. There is a lot thrown in (if anything there is a bit too much for everything to land) including a nod to the famous Abbott & Costello routine, Tennessee Williams’ unreliable narrator, plenty of shtick that had us thinking of Mel Brooks and Rodney Dangefield, and an enjoyable review of competing period slang.
Even things that nagging pedants like ourselves thought ill-fitting and possibly anachronistic in the moment are intentional. A superb patriotic number about dating fascists and commies but remembering to always marry an American in the end is a case in point. This is immediately followed by a character asking “What has that to do with anything?” showing how much has gone into mastering this story. (Of course the routine is in perfect keeping with the comically man-obsessed middle sister Rose driving it.)
The songs, plot, and dramatic sections all hold up extremely well leaving no weak points in this production. Far from being lightweight, The Carols succeeds in conjuring up an underlying sense of melancholy and masked dissatisfaction that the story and setting warrant. Give youself an early Christmas present this weekend and go see it. You deserve it despite your faults.
The Carols is playing at Carnegie Stage this Thursday though Saturday at 8pm (December 12-14th). Tickets are available here.