Scrooge: The Musical—regardless of whatever else one says about it as a play—has one thing going for it that separates it from all other Christmas Carol adaptations currently running in the North Bay; namely, this production is loaded with what can best be described as “the Spreckels style.”
It is rare for a theater company to establish its own recognizable style that’s all its own. But at the Spreckels Center in Rohnert Park, the New Spreckels Theater Company is definitely building a reputation based on a certain individual visual aesthetic.
Beginning with Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical, in the fall of 2011, managing director Gene Abravaya has been testing out a new theatrical projection system called Paradyne. Developed by Spreckels as a way to provide rapidly changing scenes without having to slide large pieces of scenery on and off the stage every few moments, the system has been effective in the large 550-seat Spreckels Theater for such shows as Young Frankenstein and Brigadoon.
For Scrooge, with songs and book written by Leslie Bricusse (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), the Paradyne system gets a tryout in the small Condiotti “black box” theater, where the audience is treated (up-close and personal) to a combination of live action, projected background slides, moving pictures and special effects—from floating phantoms over London and stacks of gold rising on the walls to a ghostly talking door knocker and a flickering-flame vision of hell.
It takes a little getting used to, and some of the ways the Paradyne is employed here are more distracting than engaging, but the projections do add a unique theme-park element that’s fresh and often clever.
Directed by Abravaya, Scrooge—based on the 1970 film starring Albert Finney—makes good use of a cast of local community theater veterans, with the excellent Tim Setzer leading the pack as Ebenezer Scrooge. The old miser’s evolution from skinflint to humanitarian is effectively staged, and the musical numbers, especially the rousing funeral celebration “Thank You Very Much,” are presented with plenty of charm by a slightly uneven but energetic cast.
Though the story may be familiar, Scrooge: The Musical—thanks to the catchy tunes and the Paradyne projections—manages to take an old tale and render it new again.
Rating (out of 5): ★★★★