Arizona Theatre Company's 'Scrooge!' is all but humbug

Arizona Theatre Company premiered their production of the holiday musical “Scrooge!” at the Temple of Music and Art in Tucson last week.

An adaptation of Dickens’ holiday novella “A Christmas Carol,” this production is the most expensive the local theatre company has ever mounted, ATC executive director Geri Wright said.

Opening night in the Temple of Music and Art was nearly sold out, with seats lined with patrons of all ages.

The musical opened with four children in modern clothing toting
smartphones, taking selfies and pictures around a toy model theatre. To
their shock, people in Victorian clothing materialized behind them, take
their phones away and including them in their fantastical story.

The music composed by Leslie Bricusse, brought to life by musical director Alan J. Plado, was whimsical and playful, ideal
for setting the Victorian scene while Spencer Liff’s choreography added
modern touches to the dynamics on the stage. The costuming, which was
designed by Elizabeth Caitlin Ward, was spectacular. The Cratchit family
was dressed in matching hues of green and yellow.

Tony Award winner Shuler Hensley starred as Ebenezer
Scrooge, while the three ghosts – the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of
Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come – were played
by Karmine Alers, Geoffrey F. Belliston and J Savage. Hensley won his Tony for his role as Jud Fry in “Oklahoma!”‘s revival. He’s played Frankenstein’s monster three times – in “Van Helsing,” in the Broadway production of “Young Frankenstein” and in “Frankenstein, the Musical.” Alers is known for playing roles such as Laura in “Naked As We Came,” Mimi in “Rent,” Aida in “Aida” and as Gloria Fajardo in “On Your Feet.” Some of Belliston’s credits include Shrek in “Shrek the Musical” as well as being in the European tour of “Hair” with the Phoenix Theatre Company. Savage recently made his Broadway debut in the original cast of “Bad Cinderella” by Andrew Lloyd Webber as Gawain.

The party showed to Scrooge by the Ghost of Christmas Past was visually beautiful. The men were dressed in red suits while the women were dressed in white and gold angel wings as they sang and danced to “December the Twenty-Fifth”. 

When the Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come showed Scrooge his own funeral, the cast wore modern textures of leathers and vinyl, giving it a futuristic touch. 

The best costumes were those of the three ghosts. The Ghost of Christmas Past wore luscious white feathers and a snowflake back piece. The Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come wore an avant garde set made out of vinyl-like fabric and a long black skirt with a train. However, the Ghost of Christmas Present stole the thunder. His outfit was fit for a spring god with flower vines and tinsel extensions in Belliston’s beard. The use of lighting and projections was also smart and inspired.

Bricusse was the author of the 1970 movie “Scrooge,” as well as the 1992 stage musical and 2022 animated adaptation. The British composer also wrote the music and lyrics for “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Doctor Dolittle,” as well as the themes for the James Bond films “Goldfinger” and “You Only Live Twice.”

ATC’s production — helmed by Artistic Director Matt August— was equal parts playful and heartwarming and it successfully took the audience along the journey of Scrooge learning the value of generosity, love and the importance of cherishing fleeting moments that can’t be weighed in a scale or accounted for in a ledger. 

Tiny Tim, played by Max Morgan, and his siblings made the audience laugh with their mischief but also added layers of complexity and mortality as his parents and Scrooge considered his condition. 

Scrooge’s reactions to his younger selves in the past lit up the theatre with more laughter and empathy. By the time the cast came out to take their final bows, the audience members were ready to get on their feet and grant them a standing ovation. 

ATC’s “Scrooge!” is a piece fit for the whole family. It will be in Tucson until Saturday, Dec. 2. After its run in Tucson, the musical will move to the Tempe Center of the Arts for opening night on Saturday, Dec. 9 and will remain there until Saturday, Dec. 30.