Wednesday, October 27, 2004

What The Dickens! A Present Surprise.

Scrooge The Musical - 10.26.04 - Ford Center/Oriental Theatre, Chicago

Going into "Scrooge," a new musical based on Dickens' A Christmas Carol, my envisioned enjoyment of the show had a lot going against it, both from a personal and universal standpoint. This was the U.S. premiere of the show, with last night being the very first performance. It supposedly was well received in London but seems to have gotten very little publicity here. It was a replacement show in my Broadway in Chicago series, replacing the far more publicized -- and personally more anticipated -- world premiere of Masada, which got scrapped. It came the night after a great R.E.M. concert, which left me both tired and somewhat wishing I could see R.E.M. again rather than attend Scrooge. The music, lyrics & book were written by Leslie Bricusse, who has some respectable credits, but nothing I particularly know. Unlike most musicals I attend, I was completely unfamiliar with any of the songs ahead of time. It was a Christmas show, which in addition to being a bit early anyhow, never much appeals to the Jew & religious cynic in me. And finally, the star of "Scrooge" was Richard Chamberlain, of whom I've never been a great fan and who seems to engender giggles when his name is mentioned.

So with all that working against it, how could it possibly be any good. I really don't know, but it was. It wasn't a masterpiece, or anything earth shattering, but I cannot deny that I found it enjoyable. Given the extremely familiar story, even to a Jew, it was executed about as well as I could have imagined. I doubt I'll be buying the Cast Recording and the music wasn't incredible or anything, but it was alright, with a few truly hummable tunes. Richard Chamberlain was good, with a surprisingly good voice. Chicago actor George Keating, who've I've often seen at Marriott Lincolnshire, was also quite good. The sets were impressive, with a few "ghostly" illusions created by a guy whose worked on the Harry Potter movies. Beyond my own personal enjoyment of Scrooge, which is slightly above middling but not overwhelming, I can really see this show as one parents can bring their kids to and introduce them to musical theatre in a worthwhile way. Far more so than Phantom of the Opera or some other higher profile shows. While it would've been so easy to pan this show with a "Bah Humbug," it really was surprisingly Merry indeed.

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