A cranky member of the 1% spends years exploiting the labor of his employee by paying a sub-standard wage and forcing him to work unregulated hours in an unsafe work environment. Spectral social activists attempt to persuade the capitalist exploiter to see the error of his ways, but it takes the threat of death for him to make meaningful changes and offer the employee a health plan that covers dependents.
That, more-or-less, is the plot to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which since its original publication in 1843 has been adapted for the stage, screen and television innumerable times. The Santa Rosa Junior College Theatre Arts Department is presenting the 1994 musical version by Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid) and Lynn Ahrens (Ragtime, Seussical). The James Newman-directed show runs in the Burbank Main Theatre on the Santa Rosa campus through Dec. 3.
The book of the show by Mike Ockrent and Ahrens tweaks the familiar tale just a bit, with some additional backstory on Scrooge’s upbringing. Much of the tale is told through song, of course. And while not one of Menken’s best efforts, the score does the job.
Scrooge is played by SRJC production manager Justin Smith while local theater artists Alanna Weatherby and Ezra Hernandez play the Ghost of Christmas Past and Present. Students and community members fill out the rest of the roles, leading to the usual challenges in a scholastic production of age-appropriate casting. Bob Cratchit (Jayce Kaldunski) appears to be only about five years older than Tiny Tim (Finn Williams).
Musical highlights included “Link by Link,” in which Jacob Marley (Ethan White) forecasts Scrooge’s fate. I believe it is the only version of Carol I‘ve seen with a dancing headless corpse. In “Fezziwig’s Annual Christmas Ball,” the ensemble does nice work with Tamara Grose’s choreography. All the group numbers came off well, as did the vocal work of Weatherby and Hernadez.
This is as costume-heavy a show as I’ve seen in a while, and designer Coleen Scott Trivett had her hands full dressing (and re-dressing) the cast of 22. They looked great occupying a multi-level scenic design by Austin Mueck and under lighting by John DiGiorgio/Desired Effects.
Go ahead and keep Christmas in your heart by occupying one of the vacant seats in the SRJC house.
‘A Christmas Carol’ runs Weds–Sun through Dec. 3 in the Santa Rosa Junior College Burbank Auditorium Main Theatre, 1501 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa. Weds–Sat, 7:30pm; Sat & Sun, 2pm. $15–$25. 707.527.4307. theatrearts.santarosa.edu.