by Beki Pineda

A CHRISTMAS CAROL, THE MUSICAL – Music by Alan Menken; Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens; Book by Mike Ockrent and Lynn Ahrens; Directed by Robert Wells.  Produced by Town Hall Arts Center (2450 West Main Street, Littleton) through December 23.  Tickets available at 303-794-2787 or townhallartscenter.org.

The holiday season is upon us.  I have scheduled multiple viewings of variations of A CHRISTMAS CAROL and other holiday offerings in the next three weeks.  If they are all as touching as this musical version at Town Hall, I’m going to have a Dickens of a time getting through the season.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the place as the cast gathered on stage after Scrooge’s redemption to sing “God Bless Us, Everyone” together.

If the music has a decidedly Disney feel to it, no surprise.  Alan Menken is an official Disney legend, having written the scores for BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, POCOHANTAS, LITTLE MERMAID, ALADDIN, and dozens more films and theatrical productions.  While much of the music has a jaunty swing to it, such as “Fezziwig’s Annual Christmas Ball” and the tap number in “Abundance and Charity,” there are also beautiful solos that reflect Scrooge’s early feelings (Christmas has “Nothing to do With Me”) and the lessons he learned in his ghostly journey (“Yesterday, Tomorrow and Today”).  Everyone knows the story so no need to retell it.  Suffice it to say that this is a beautiful production well sung and danced.

The scenic design dreamed up by Michael Duran and executed by Mike Haas and his crew has absolutely gorgeous detail and yet moves quickly in and out of place to keep the pace of the evening at full tilt.  The small touches – beautiful faux food and holiday décor – provided by Rob Costigan and Bob Bauer added to the fun.  The lighting design created by Emily Maddox creates the sinister darkness of the scenes with Marley and the Ghost of Christmas Future while bringing joyful illumination to the Christmas Ball and street scenes.  Ghostly projections moved us quickly into the other-worldliness of Scrooge’s magical night.  Susan Rahmsdorff-Terry’s Victorian costumes brought authenticity to the proceedings.  All in all, a most beautiful production.

Stephen Turner inhabited the role of Scrooge, making his face so Grinchy in the beginning as to be unrecognizable to one who has seen him in at least a dozen shows.  It wasn’t until later in the story when he started to smile a little that he converted back to the familiar face.  His timing was spot on, winning him laughs throughout the evening.  Combined with his awkward attempts at dancing and his joy at finding it was still Christmas, he won the audience over easily and completely.

The ensemble of players supported the story with enthusiasm and skill.  The singer Rajdulari made a purposeful Ghost of Christmas Past that started Scrooge on his journey.  Dancer John Mackey became a jolly Christmas Present introducing him to the Cratchits at home and his nephew Fred’s holiday gathering.  Is there anything Caitlin Conklin can’t do??  She contributed a beautiful ballet-like solo as the Ghost of Christmas Future.  The most frightening of all was Rich Caldwallader as Jacob Marley whose warning to Scrooge was genuinely frightening when he was joined by a chorus of zombie-like rabble.

Town Hall found an amazing group of children to add to the ensemble in important roles: The Cratchit children, the younger versions of Ebenezer (Jaren Frederick) and his sister Fan (Sophia Dotson), and, most assuredly, 3rd grader Kyriana Kratter who sang Tiny Tim’s part with grace and confidence.  She stole everyone’s heart with her calm measured assurance on stage and her clear bell-like voice.  What a career she has in front of her!!

This is a wonderful way of starting your holidays.  Town Hall has set the bar high for the holiday shows to follow.

A WOW factor of 9!!