by Beki Pineda

SCROOGE – Book, Music and Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse; Directed by Robert Michael Sanders.  Produced by Candlelight Dinner Playhouse (4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown) through December 31.  Tickets available at 970-744-3747 or coloradocandlelight.com.

Why should you drive all the way to Johnstown to see yet another version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL? One really good reason is Brian Burron who returns to play Scrooge in this musical version. While he is well supported by a talented ensemble of players and a production team that shines, this show belongs to Brian. He is front and center all the way through and nails every nuance of the character of Scrooge from Grinchy to glorious. Brian is a slightly younger, more athletic Scrooge which somehow makes his greedy self even more pathetic and his reformed self more plausible. He seems to actually have the time to change his life and correct his mistakes – undo his chain, as it were.

Incredulous at the appearance of his old partner Marley (Kent Suggs) and his warnings about the life he led, he exclaims that “It’s Not My Fault,” refusing responsibility for Marley’s situation. He’s snippy with the Ghosts that visit him, yet enters into their lessons with an open mind. He revels in the revelations of the Ghost of Christmas Past (Lisa Kay Carter), delights in the remembrances of his sister and in the jocularity of Fezziwig’s Ball (led by Scott Hurst, Jr. and Annie Dwyer). He had forgotten how much fun he had in the past but is brought down by the memories of Isabel (Sarah Grover), his fiancé, who left him when money became more important to him than her. This was the beginning of the end for the old Scrooge. But still “It’s Not My Fault.” There’s a surprising little twist at the end of the Past episode that adds a whole new layer of poignancy to the story.

Brian as Scrooge is surprised by what he learns from the Ghost of the Present (Elliot Clough) as he visits the poor Cratchit household (Thomas Castro and an unforgiving Heather McClain) and sees them toast his good health when he has done so little to make their life better. He also takes great pleasure in “playing” a game of “The Minister’s Cat” shadowing the guests at his nephew’s Christmas Day party. But he falters at having his own words thrown back at him about “poor houses” and “decreasing the population.” It takes the appearance of the Ghost of Christmas Future to effect a lasting change on Scrooge as he hears the Boozers sing about someone who did them a big favor by dying, only to discover it was him. His delight at learning it is only Christmas Day when he awakens back in his own bedroom and that he’s not too late to do some good this very year is contagious and has everyone in the audience smiling with him. “I’ll Begin Again” he sings . . . and he does. The turkey “as big as me” gets delivered, the cast comes off Tiny Tim’s leg, and Scrooge loses the chain he forged before his life’s lessons. Sorry, Marley, you won’t get the company of your old partner after all.

While songwriter Leslie Bricusse has created much memorable music, these songs work for the show but – except for “Thank You Very Much” – there’s little to hum as you leave the theatre. Nothing like “If I Ruled the World” or “Candy Man” from other Bricusse shows. But still the music tells the story that needs to be told in melodies in turn jaunty and jovial or  melancholy and morose as needed.

This is a colorful, delightful production that will prove an enjoyment for all members of the family. Smart and touching enough for adults and childish enough for kids to understand and enjoy. A true ensemble of thirty actors fills this huge stage with holiday cheer. The clever set designed by Charles Packard open like pop-up Christmas cards to reveal various rooms and street scenes. The costumes by Judith Ernst abound with reds and greens in authentic prints and styles. The Ghosts are appropriately scary – especially Kent Suggs as Marley – or benevolent as required. The musical accompaniment led by Phil Forman was balanced and lively.

A WOW factor of 8.5!!