Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Review: Words Players A Christmas Carol Rochester MN

Review: Words Players A Christmas Carol Rochester MN

Event information at end of the review
I (Arthur Fiddler) was invited to play pre-show music, and in exchange I got to see this production, along with a discount for my wife. 
They've taken this old storefront at the south end of downtown, and gutted the back half into a 360 degree stage area with the audience seated in the middle and scenes and video screens where things happen, and random cast members mill about, and dance 50's rock and roll and 40's swing for and with the audience during the breaks when they serve snacks and hot cider, and present a menu for things like soda or coffee. Mrs's Fezziwig deserves special notice as that crazy partying auntie some of us have. Seemed the cast was about half school age kids, half young adults with just a few parts for the over-40 like Scrooge and his first boss, and the wise cracking lower class street gentleman. 
You know something is up when you approach on the sidewalk to see a bunch of scraggly street urchins with 19th century London accents hitting you up to buy stuff. (some of it's pretty cool like a $35 nuts and bolts christmas angel) Inside, the front half was arranged as a crafts market, and they had 4 era's of American Christmas decorations from the late 19th century, the 1940s with steel roller skates and tinsel tree, a 1960's space age christmas with a black and white TV and color projector on an Aluminum christmas tree (like my Chinese parents had 1960-1968), and a 70's christmas with a Simon electronic game.
Interspersed between live acting, they pipe in a old radio play with Orson Welles, and scenes from old classic movies, but the live acting is much, much more gripping than even a 10,000 watt Imax feature. When Scrooge masterfully lays into his victims, it just hurts to watch a verbal assault.

When Marley's ghost appears, it looks like the Disneyland Haunted Castle with a broadway style mechanical fireplace which reminds me of a set I saw for Wicked which opens up to reveal old Marley himself bursting out of a membrane of goo dragging out chains with a dreaful clang, straight out of a zombie movie. I mean he really looked like a bloody hell, compared to the pale ghosts in the movies past.
The ghost of christmas past was a cute girl in braces covered in yellow christmas lights, thanks to the modern miracle of D battery powered LED lighting who disappears into the ceiling on a trapeeze.  Scrooge had a girl he was in love with when he was so poor he could only afford a cheap ring, but the girl left him when his beloved and generous  first employer, Mr. Fezziwig was forced into bankruptcy in a hostile takeover by Marley, and Scrooge's real love became money and power.
The ghost of Christmas present, normally played by men was a jolly woman who first appears as a stilt-high figure who ends up grabbing Scrooge by the neck and verbally slaps him around when she makes it sink into Scrooge's thick skull that he's looking at the dying "surplus population" in poor Tiny Tim. Before she vanishes into the floor, she introduces two scraggly children Ignorance and Want who are doomed to wander about the audience for the rest of the show.
Christmas future is a tall black-robed mute figure who shows the only people who are happy when he dies are the street people who divvy up his belongings. He wakes up realize that needs to change like the original Grinch who's heart suddenly grew 3 sizes, and decides to pay special attention to Tiny Tim who eventually is cured, and attend his nephew's Christmas party. The themes are many of the same in the progressive / conservative wars between right and left today, and criticisms of the Wall Street wolf days in the 1980s but rarely framed in such masterful literature that's been done and redone by Hollywood and even parodied by Micky Mouse and Mister Magoo.

In these days, it's also notable that this classic tale is a largely secular story that like the Grinch (but not the Charlie Brown Christmas special) attempts to explain the real meaning of Christmas in terms of shared prosperity, joy, love, parties and turkeys without making reference to the namesake of the celebration of the central figure of worship of the Christian religion.
It's all in good fun, a different sort of presentation than traditional theater. It's got a lot of happy dancing kids (since I'm an Asian dad, we notice the 2 or 3 Asian kids) when they're not playing desperately poor starving people, and I picked up plot points that went right past me after all the 35 different times and versions I've seen this story. 
The Spirit of Christmas Past: A Christmas Carol
The fourth production of this timeless classic story. A celebrated community Christmas event and a Dickens Christmas Experience. Arrive early to shop at the Dickens Market, interact with cast members and enjoy live music.
Sweet meats and savouries during each show by Kahler Events.
Friday night pre-show receptions at the theatre, with appetizers, & wine by Kahler Events, plus music and Dickens Market.

Saturday night pre-show Dickens dinner at the Lord Essex Tavern in the Kahler Grand Hotel.

To see the dinner menu and all the performance dates, as well as a listing of this year's Lord Mayor lineup, follow the link to the main page for A Christmas Carol.
Fridays   5, 12, 19
Reception plus Show          6:30 – 7:30pm            Adults $60/Students $50

Saturdays   6, 13, 20  
Package 1                         Dinner & Show      5:30/7:30pm             $83                         
Package 2                         Show                     7:30pm                     $33/$27              

Thursday 18                      Show                     7:30pm                    $25/ $20*

Saturdays 6, 13, 20           Show                     2pm                         $25/ $20*

*Family cap $120 for Thursday night and Saturday matinees.

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