When: Today and Saturday at 8:30 p.m., Sunday 2:30 p.m.
Where: Spotlighters, 817 St. Paul St.
Tickets: $7 & $8. (Tickets to all performances are sold out.)
*** Most productions of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" are syrupy enough to rot your teeth. There's no question that Dickens could ooze sentimentality, but his writing also had its grisly side; some of it is downright macabre.
The Spotlighters' production of "Scrooge" -- the stage version of Leslie Bricusse's 1970 movie musical, based on the Dickens' classic -- is not just for kids. It has an edge to it. In fact, the costumes, masks and makeup are scary enough to give the youngsters a bit of a turn; they are some of the best seen on a community theater stage for some time.
But this production doesn't just look good, it also has an excellent Scrooge in the person of Mark Redfield, who looks as if he aged 60 years for the part. Wearing a balding wig and walking with stooped posture, he makes his entrance singing "I Hate People" with his lips turned in a fixed frown. Everything about him seems old, gnarled and crabby.
While most of the other members of this large cast aren't quite up to Mr. Redfield's level, a few come close. As Jacob Marley, the ghost of Scrooge's deceased business partner, Stuart Voytilla wears a mottled, warty white mask with a ghastly grin. Flinging his chains, moneybags and cash box, he is a highly effective harbinger of horrors to come.
Not that the assorted ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come are all frightening. The greatest departure from Dickens is Anne Frith's Christmas Past, a woman garbed in an elegant evening gown. The other two spirits come closer to the originals. Brian P. Chetelat, who also directed, plays Christmas Present as a Bacchus-like figure jovially inebriated on the milk of human kindness, a pitcher of which he carries with him. And Christmas Yet to Come, the only spine-tingler of the three, is portrayed by Joe Leatherman in a skeleton get-up covered in a black cloak.
In addition to the ghosts, Bonnie Danaker proves she's a genuinely comic character actress as Scrooge's maid; and as townsperson Tom Jenkins, Jimi Kinstle is an agile singer and dancer, finding room on the Spotlighters' small stage for some surprisingly acrobatic moves. A 10-year-old girl, Katie Horn, has been cast as Tiny Tim and she has a clear, pretty voice that does justice to the challenge of singing a cappella. Most of Mr. Bricusse's songs are instantly forgettable; the only familiar tune is the rather grating "Thank You Very Much." But a couple classic carols fill in the deficiencies of the score. And overall, the Spotlighters' "Scrooge" is guaranteed to put you in the Christmas spirit -- without giving you cavities.