You don’t have to be a hardcore show tune fan to enjoy “A Broadway Christmas Carol” but it certainly helps.
Created by Kathy Feininger, MetroStage’s holiday musical offering employs melodies from scads of hit scores including “Les Misérables,” “Damn Yankees,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Cabaret” and more (all with cleverly adapted lyrics) to tell Charles Dickens’ holiday classic in a fast-paced, comic style. Performed by a fabulously talented trio, it’s an amusing, toe-tapping good time.
So don’t expect to experience a fully realized Ebenezer Scrooge transformational journey. You won’t. This is less heartwarming old chestnut and more of a campy romp (for those old enough to remember think the “Carol Burnett Show’s” send up of Hollywood’s golden era). Here, penny-pinching Scrooge (played by talented gay actor Michael Sharp who also directs and choreographs) sings, mugs and dances his way from miserable miser to grateful geezer.
Still the essential plot points are met and each of the tale’s many familiar characters make an appearance but not necessarily as you might remember them. Jacob Marley’s ghost inexplicably shows up as a buxom, gum-cracking Mae West and the ghost of Christmas present is in fact a prettily wrapped present who orders Scrooge to touch her box. And those allegorical twins — Want and Ignorance — are represented as a pair of hand puppets á la “Avenue Q,” always ready to blaringly appeal to Scrooge’s more sensitive side.
As “the Woman Who Isn’t Scrooge,” terrific Tracey Stephens makes rapid fire costume and character changes to play every female role in the musical including a hilariously love-starved do-gooder, Scrooge’s myopic first love Belle, as well as his late sister, a dimpled and tap-dancing Baby Fan. Equally good is Matthew A. Anderson as “the Man Who Isn’t Scrooge.” He’s especially funny as an understandably sulky Bob Cratchit and a spoiled rotten Tiny Tim whose demented number based on a song from “Annie” — “(I’m Going to Walk) Tomorrow” — is well worth the price of admission. Sharp, Stephens and Anderson are all terrific comic actors.
The parodied show tunes are nonstop, well done and numerous at about 30 ranging from “I’m In the Money” to “Bob’s Once a Year Day” to “It Sucks to Be Thee.” Though Feininger hasn’t spoofed too much from contemporary shows, she has mined several decades of Broadway gold. For those who know and like musical theater, the many tuneful takeoffs and innumerable inside jokes are especially fun.
Allison Campbell’s festive set — a little stage upon a stage framed by red and green bulbs and topped with an enormous plaid bow — charmingly invokes both Christmas and vaudeville. Off to the side sits a baby grand piano, where music director Elisa Rosman accompanies with a lot of skill and some humor.
Now in its second year at MetroStage (located on the northern tip of Old Town Alexandria), “A Broadway Christmas Carol” is emerging as somewhat of a holiday tradition for the company.
At a recent performance, the couple seated to my left described the show as their “auxiliary” annual visit with Mr. Humbug. In addition to the straight play version they attend every December, they’re now making time for the musical too.