Twist on classic Christmas carol

<i>This review is based on a preview night performance–another chance for the performers to rehearse. It may not reflect the production as it will appear during its final run.</i>

Prepare to be entertained as the Taproot Theatre Company presents "The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s Production of ‘A Christmas Carol.’" Described by producing artistic director Scott Nolte as a "theatrical, comic train-wreck," the play is a brilliantly executed portrayal of an amateur production, full of laughs and fantastic acting.

The play follows the attempts of a band of amateur actors to put together a serious rendition of Dickens’s timeless classic "A Christmas Carol," which ends up a calamity-filled comedy. The play within a play brings to the stage a host of Dickens’s beloved characters with a cast of only five.

The notoriously avaricious Scrooge is played to perfection by Thelma (Alyson S. Branner), an animated and articulate "serious actress," frustrated with the lack of professionalism from her fellow actors. A female Scrooge is an uncommon concept, but Branner manages to pull it off by capturing both Scrooge’s and Thelma’s characters absolutely.

The Ghost of Christmas Past is played by Gordon (Larry Albert), who guarantees a smile when he forgets his lines, manages to batter a scared Scrooge with his wayward chains as Marley and proceeds to whisk Scrooge into the past to the soulful strains of "I Believe I Can Fly."

R Kelly’s pop hit is one of many musical numbers that the play incorporates. The characters dance and sing at various stages, adding a little bit of spice to the production.

The loveable, slightly clueless Mrs. Reese (Shellie Shulkin) is memorable with her witty dialogue and her flawless British accent. Shulkin is excellent as Reese, taking on roles ranging from Tiny Tim to the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come with complete poise, although she is interrupted at times by a falling stage set or her daughter calling her over the sound system.

Mercedes (Lorrie Fargo), portraying Bob Cratchett, has chronic back problems, which continually delay the entire production for the other Dramatic Society actors, much to the amusement of the audience.

The character Felicity (Bethany Wallace) makes her stage debut as Scrooge’s nephew in the Dramatic Society’s production of "A Christmas Carol," while Wallace makes her Taproot Theatre Company main stage debut, as well. Wallace pulls the role off with flying colors, quite literally. Her character is played with a 20th century "punk" twist, with color-streaked hair and trendy outfits.

Taproot’s auditorium seats roughly 150 people, with the audience surrounding the small stage on three sides. The show nearly becomes a pantomime as the characters interact with the audience, playing charades with and getting volunteer actors from the crowd. It keeps the audience laughing, attentive and very much connected with the actors on stage.

"The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s Production of ‘A Christmas Carol’" is quirky, fun and one play you don’t want to miss.

The play runs through Dec. 29 with Wednesday and Thursday performances at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday performances at 8 p.m. and Saturday matinees at 2 p.m. Regular ticket prices range from $26-33. Student and senior discounts are available. All performances are at the Taproot Theatre, located at 204 N. 85th St. Visit http://taproot.org for tickets, show times and other information.

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Title: Twist on classic Christmas carol | Author: Stephanie Rubesh | Section: Features | Published Date: 2007-11-28 | Internal ID: 6165