The Jesters Dinner Theatre’s production of Legally Blonde: The Musical is on hiatus during December, and in its place is the Jesters’ delightful annual production of Scrooge.
The Jesters has a 20+ year tradition of spending December with Scrooge, Marley’s Ghost, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet-to-Come, and the achingly beautiful music and lyrics of Leslie Bricusse.
In 1970, Leslie Bricusse wrote the screenplay, lyrics and music for a screen adaption of A Christmas Carol called Scrooge, which starred Albert Finney. In 1992, Bricusse adapted his screenplay for the stage, keeping all of the much-loved songs from the film and adding a few more.
The location: London, England. The year: 1860.
Poverty in the great city of London is rife, and moneylender Ebenezer Scrooge has become rich in no small part by loaning money at great interest to small business people, including street vendors who struggle to make a living by selling hot soup, or socks, and other items. Scrooge strides daily through this city on his un-merry way, un-noticing and uncaring of the suffering around him. (But equally un-noticing and uncaring of happiness and contentment.)
It’s Christmas Eve, seven years to the day since Scrooge’s former business partner – and equal in miserliness – Jacob Marley, died. Scrooge huddles alone in his room, with nothing but a mug of hot soup to warm him, when suddenly moans and the rattle of chains fill the room. It’s the ghost of Jacob Marley, doomed to wander the earth without rest, and to carry an unbearably heavy chain – a chain he forged in life. For pity’s sake he has come to visit Scrooge and give him a chance to avoid Marley’s fate – but will Scrooge be moved by the visions of his life shown him by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet-to-Come?
The cast of Scrooge is large, and in a way it’s a Christmas present to many of the Jesters’ actors, as most of the roles are double or even triple cast so that as many of the company as possible have an opportunity to be on stage for this annual tradition.
The stage is dominated by Scott Moore as Scrooge, of course. Moore gives an assured performance and has a lot of fun in the role – delivering asides to the audience during the crowd scenes that draw laughs.
His is an affecting performance, too, as he accompanies the three spirits on the journey of his life, from the uncaring father of his childhood to his growing obsession with security. His scene, as he desperately tries to get his younger self to not let the love of his life, Isabel, return his ring and walk out of his life, is heart-breaking.
In the performance seen by this reviewer, young Scrooge was played by Alex Grant and Isabel by Jackie Milliren. Her singing of the almost anthemic “Happiness Is” is a delight. The scene with her and young Scrooge – actually with a happy smile on his face at this point – is all the more heart-breaking because it’s juxtaposed with their next scene in which the smile has disappeared from his face, counting money consumes his thoughts, and he lets her go away.
Bob Cratchit (played by Pete KJ) is a different man when surrounded by his wife (Rachael Brady) and children (Lena Byrne, Jeannne Gochenour, Greg Randel, and Ashton Debie as Tiny Tim).
Moore has a lot of fun at Scrooge’s nephew’s Christmas party, where he promises Fred that if he were in his will, he’d disinherit him. But he’s not. (The only flaw in the production, a minor one, takes place in this scene. The actors playing young Scrooge and Isabel appear as guests at the party. This detracts somewhat from their prior scenes. Different wigs would help the audience distance them from their previous characters.)
Mark Lewis was in fine ghostly form as Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s only friend who hopes to save the miser from his own fate. Danny Bohnen as the Ghost of Christmas Present has a wonderful time with his own anthem,”I Like Life.”
Chuck Glidewell is ebullient as Mr. Fezziwig, and the entire company dances well to the rollicking “December 25.” Scotty Bohnen plays Tom Jenkins the hot soup man, who sings “Thank You Very Much” twice, for two very different reasons, in Act Two, and the entire company joins in, in the second version, with some fun choreography.
Scrooge is an uplifting story of redemption and promise, and the Jesters delivers on this classic tale in every aspect.
As befitting a holiday production, the Jesters offers an entree for this production of turkey and stuffing. The turkey was thick cut, tender and juicy, the mashed potatoes and gravy piping hot. For dessert – not on the menu so you’ll have to ask if ice cream, cheesecake, chocolate mousse pie or the other standards don’t appeal – is pecan pie.
Other entrees are their standbys of chicken cordon bleu, chicken or salmon salad, extraordinary berry salad or cheese tortellini. As with all dinner theatres there are “premium” entrees that have a surcharge – filet of salmon, fantail shrimp or prime rib. Children’s menu features mini corn dogs, chicken tenders or cheese or pepperoni pizza. Dessert and beverages is also extra.
For non-alcoholic beverages, the themed offering is The Minister’s Cat – hot cider and cranberry juice. Alcohol includes beer and wine. The themed drinks are the Bah Humbug (rum and eggnog) and the Father Christmas (peppermint schnapps and hot chocolate, topped with whipped cream).
The waitstaff are members of the company, and were invariably cheerful, efficient and happy to take a few seconds to talk to anyone at a table about their role on stage if desired.
Complete Acting Company
- Scrooge – Scott Moore
- Scrooge’s Nephew (Fred) – Ben Bernhardt or Josh Lostroh
- Bob Cratchit – Keff Zumfelde, Greg Perry or Pete KJ
- Tiny Tim – James Zumfelde or Ashton Debie
- Kathy Cratchit – Lena Byrne, Ahnalysse Wyland-Olberding or Olivia Chase
- Solicitor # – Steve Byrne or Pete KJ
- Solicitor #2 – Ian Tinney or John Halcomb
- Sock seller #1 – Ellie Weldon, Artie Thompson or Evelyn Leistiko
- Sock seller #2 – Anna Ramsey, Ruth King or Cosette Hansen
- Tom Jenkins (Hot soup man) – Michael Butler, Scotty Bohnen or Paul Chilson
- Ale Salesman – Brandon Hein, Pete Burke or Tyler Hansen
- Bag Lady – Ashley Smith, Lize Lang or Debbie Marr
- Jacob Marley – Jim Berthold, Mark Lewis or Steve Van Lier
- Ghost of Christmas Past – Ann Massengill, Cherrie Ramsdell-Speich or Lynda Miller
- Fan (Scrooge’s sister)/Urchin – Fianna Lewis, Emma Reiner or Ashley Ahrens
- Ebenezer as boy/Urchin/Paper boy – Jonah Swanson or C. J. Giseburt
- Mr. Fezziwig – Chuck Glidewell
- Mrs. Fezziwig – Samantha Bolte-Woods, Amber Clifford or Teresa Affleck
- Isabel – Jenna Alves, Summer Cushman, Laney Collins, Jackie Milliren or Emily Briggs
- Young Ebenezer – Alex Grant or Cody Mowrey
- Ghost of Christmas Present – Danny Bohnen or Jim Berthold
- Mrs. Cratchit – Tara Zumfelde, Kathy Timme or Rachael Brady
- Gertrude Cratchit – Jeanne Gochenour, Emma Ogle or Anne Hullet
- Peter Cratchit – Travis Clifford, Greg Randel or Jake Moore
- Fred’s wife – Shannon Bohnen, Ann Allman or Harley Glenn
- Mrs. Sipsoup – Jackie Milliren, Olivia Ramsey or Savanna Rivera
- Urchin #1 – Morgan Burke, Anna Ford or Abbey Kunz
- Urchin #2 – Katrina Canfield, Julia Perian, Anna Granstrand
- Urchin #3 – Josie Meining, Sarah Ahrens or Alainah Smith
- Urchin #4 – Claire Atteberry, Makayla Marr or Alix Stanger
- Produced and directed by Mary Lou and Scott Moore
- Music direction by Mary Lou Moore
- Costumes by Lize Bohnen
- Scenic painting by Jackie Aves, Patricia Bohnen, Cindy Gochenour and Angie Cape
- Lighting and sound technicians – Morgan Burke, Olivia Chase, Abbey Kunz, Alaina Noble, Peter Burke
- Choreography by Mary Lou Moore