Audience: Doug Haverty

Dec

A CAROL CHRISTMAS

THEATRE REVIEW #785 - A Carol Christmas The Group Rep's Production of “A Carol Christmas” Is A Fun Joyous Twist Of An Ol' Classic' Written By Lorenzo Marchessi “A Carol Christmas” – Wow! Loved it! I'm sure Charles Dickens never saw this one coming. The Group Rep company in North Hollywood (at the Lonny Chapman Theatre) of creative talent has come up with a fresh and fun and musically delightful version of “A Christmas Carol” that will surprise you, touch you and just keep you toe-tapping and singing along! Producers Kevin Hoffman & Gina Yates have taken a large leap from traditional telling of this classic originally written in 1843 and brought modern-day fun back to live theatre with that Holiday flavor! With an amazingly original and completely entertaining book by Doug Haverty and the festive music and lyrics by Bruce Kimmel himself (also the Director), you are in for a real Holiday treat of a very familiar story done in a very modern setting that's so much fun! Musical director Richard Allen gave all these new songs a musical and vocal arrangement that your ears will feel like peppermint and cinnamon spice – and I dare you not to catch yourself smiling from cheek-to-cheek or singing along. Director Bruce Kimmel chose a wonderfully talented cast and a very stylized way to present the staging and musical numbers that nothing is lost, unheard or unclear. This is both technically and artistically brilliant! Now, add the fun, hip and engaging choreography by Kay Cole, this show literally doesn't miss a beat of Holiday Fun! Hartley Powers plays Carol and the nasty boss with clear wit and sharp tongue. And I haven't seen this much talent on stage in a long time. She is perfectly nasty, and when it comes down to it, Hartley gives a wonderful arch in her performance that just cuts you right to the bone. Now about her beautiful voice and powerful songs like “All I Want For Christmas” and “What Have I Learned” – well, she'll just – musically – blow you away. I loved her energy, sense of humor and sarcasm and along with her vocal talents – she carries this story from beginning to end with amazing talent! Just wow! Janet Wood plays both Joelle the deceased former partner of the business (aka Scrooge's Marley) and sings a very powerful song called “The Message” to get Carol slightly concerned about a lesson or three she is about to learn - and as Karina an amazing version of ‘The Ghost of X-mas Present' who also sings this hysterical song called “Owaska Tea” to help Hartley see what's actually going on in people's lives around her. Janet is dynamic. Janet is so incredibly funny and has an amazing voice – she is truly a musical/comedian. Okay, another wow! Peyton Kirkner plays Trina the younger daughter who is ill (aka Tiny Tim) and gives a very excited, yet physically challenged performance that is both fun and believable. Her real showcase is her song “Spelling Backwards” and it is not only smart and clever but a pure delight to see with a very unique and memorable choreography that you'll soon not forget. Debi Tinsley plays Mabel – ‘The Ghost of X-Mas Future' – is so charmingly delightful and again so funny to see as she uses her Tarot cards to spin the future for Carol. Even Debi's song “Tarot Cards” will have you laughing out loud and she plays the cards and moments like she owns the stage. Way too much fun to see. Debi Tinsley plays Odette who is ‘The Ghost of X-Mas Past' and I must say I loved the twist of a Psychologist talking Carol through her past and pinpointing various special moments. Debi again plays it very uniquely calm and very smart and with a dabble of humor throughout her performance. Her song “Close Your Eyes” is both moving and touching to the story that you'll find maybe a heart string of yours might be tugged. Savannah Schoenecker plays Blyth mother of Trina (and basically the Bob Cratchit of the story) and as a hard-working mother with a sick child and wife of a working father she has her plate full all the time. Savannah also has an amazing voice and her song “Little Miracles” compassionately explains where her feelings reside. John Schroeder plays Blake – who has this long enduring love for Carol who never quite gives the right amount of attention that he deserves. John plays the role bright and optimistic and even hopeful and even laments slightly in his song “Separate Ways”. He and Hartley have a fun and developing relationship on stage and you too will feel their passion for each other grow because of John's spot-on performance. Emily Barnett gives a warm-hearted performance in the character of Fiona and you get a real taste of her character's Holiday feelings when she sings “This Christmas”. Harley Walker plays the dutiful intern Avalon and I loved her enthusiasm and excitement of her job and the fact she had to deal with Carol's nastiness. She made me laugh more than once and for all the right reasons. Two hysterical shout outs to Lloyd Pedersen for giving us a very memorable ‘Mr. Death' (complete with a Red suit) whose song, “Shuffle Off This Mortal Coil” will have you in stitches along with his other two characters Perlman and Mr. Forrester. He just had me smiling from the first note – to the last. And, another shout out to Monica Allan who gives us the three uniquely bold and funny characters of Mrs. Forrester, a ‘lover' in the ‘The Lover's' sequence and the High Priestess with her haunting song, “I Know Everything, I See Everything”. These two were stand-out fun to see. Some wonderfully song and dance ensemble members and colorful characters include; Ben Anderson as Pettit; Ryan J. Duncan as Leon and Howie; Kevin Hoffman as Felix the father of Trina; Lola Paja as Josie and Catrina Pereira as Patti. There is also a fun group of children playing Carolers who give the play a subtle warmth and slight bit of humor and they are performed by Celine June Bautista, Ellie Birdwell, Andrew Grigorian, Chihiro Kato and Momoka Kato. Nice job guys! Visually, it was great seeing some of the most practical and yet very sharp and smart costume designs by Morgan Gannes along with the versatile and unique set design of a modern-day trendy office as designed by Tesshi Nakagawa and some wonderful lighting designs and cues that augmented the whole show by Sabrina Beattie. Some of the other fun and catchy and immersively Holiday flavored songs include; ‘Just Another Christmas' – ‘Meet Cute' – ‘Close Your Eyes' – ‘This Party's Just For You' and many many more. My two absolutely favorites have to be the opening number “Christmas Time Is Here/Just Another Christmas” where we basically get a wonderful Christmas take from every character and what's going on around them - and the absolutely clever “Spelling Backwards” as sung by Peyton Kirkner with Ryan J. Duncan which just blew me away in both its complexity and performance. The Group Rep's production of “A Carol Christmas” at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood is a fun joyous twist of an Ol' Classic' – Christmas will never be the same after you see this show. New music. New dance. New laughs. Upbeat and fantastically fun for the whole family. Check them out at theGroupRep dot com and tell them Lorenzo sent you from FaceBook dot com/TheGeekAuthority ! ©2018 TheGeekAuthority dot com & ©2018 LandMProductions dot com Facebook dot com/TheGeekAuthority #[email protected] #thegrouprep #acarolchristmas #musicaltheatre#musicals Pic 001 – CENTER – John Schroeder, Hartley Powers TOP LEFT – Savannah Schoenecker, Peyton Kirkner - TOP RIGHT – Lloyd Pedersen – Middle Right – Hartley Powers, Debi Tinsley – Bottom Left – Janet Wood - Bottom 2nd – Debi Tinsley – Bottom 3rd – Hartley Powers, Savannah Schoenecker, Harley Walker - Bottom Right – Celine Bautista, Momoka Kato, Ellie Birdwell, Chihiro Kato, Andrew Grigorian

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