Eugene Weekly : Theater : 11.23.11

Trading Doo-Wops for Bah Humbugs

ACE’s A Christmas Carol turns Dickens’ classic into a merry musical

It’s been three years since this town has been treated to the tongue-lashings of Ebenezer Scrooge. Having been sated with comfortable comedies at Christmas the past few years, the ACE audience spoke up and the Cabaret responded by bringing back an annual favorite.

A Christmas Carol (The Broadway Musical Version) is exactly what you would expect. Catchy show tunes couch the classic Dickens tale, and a patina of Christmas sparkle mutes the sober elements of the original story. The script races through plot points and ladles out the slapstick in lieu of ripping social commentary. Pretty costumes and hordes of carolers crowd the small stage with holiday cheer.

This isn’t my favorite script. But while I can cross my arms and be a Dickens purist, most folks in Eugene who might enjoy a holiday evening out aren’t such sourpusses — particularly my children. The sparkling trees, the massive mound of shiny wrapped presents, the snow machine and the silly antics of Scrooge had my kids enthralled. 

ACE is proactive about making this a family-friendly event. Curtain is at 7:30 pm, making the curtain call a reasonable 9 pm for younger children. You can come for dinner, or simply dig into decadent desserts at intermission. My daughter Margaret recommends the ice cream sundae.

The theater is decked out in fabulous holiday style. A Christmas Carol (The Broadway Musical Version) is a fun way to celebrate the season with family and community, and should one of the grown-ups in the party find themselves getting all college-sophomore righteous about the script, there’s a nice bar in the theater to repair to with your humbuggery.

Director Joe Zingo (recently singled out for a Breaking Barriers award) chooses to showcase a number of new faces on the ACE stage. Sacrificing big voices for some fresh energy, the place bubbled with theatrical joie de vivre. Lara Brahms, Carly Walker and Dante Cecchini-Coe are but a few of the many cheerful actors darting on and off the stage, flipping characters with ease.

Not to worry, Cabaret regular Bruce McCarthy is back as Scrooge, and I would consider signing a petition to make it illegal for anyone else to fill that role. Mark Van Beever has a number of costume changes, and is most gratifying as the Ghost of Christmas Present. It was nice to see Tyler and Laura Holden back on stages as Mr. and Mrs. Cratchit, with their beautiful two-year-old twin daughters rounding out the Cratchit family.

It is only within the past 50 years that Christmas has become a private, family event in our culture. Historically, the holiday season was the province of society at large, with many opportunities to celebrate with your community. Public celebrations are slim these days.

Sure, you could take your kids to the mall to see Santa (am I the only one who doesn’t like standing in a long line surrounded by material excess so my kids can sit on some guy’s lap?), or you could choose to take the kiddos to the theater. 

If you’re going to be a snob about 19th-century literature, stay home and be a Scrooge in grumbling privacy. But if you want to treat your family to a holiday tradition that will have you all holding hands and humming show tunes together, check out this modern musical version of A Christmas Carol. 

A Christmas Carol: The Broadway Musical Version runs Nov. 18- Dec. 17 at Actors Cabaret of Eugene, 996 Willamette St.; or 683-4368; $16-$41.95.