The Great American Playhouse is now the Gaslight Music Hall, billed as “Oro Valley’s new home for Concerts, Musical Revues, Family Entertainment & More.” -2016
I don’t know what got into her, but Ms. Karen acquired 2 tickets to The Great American Playhouse to see an adaptation of Charles Dicken’s novella, “A Christmas Carol”. Of course, we’ve both read the book years ago. But we have in no way seen all of the movie versions.
There was the 1951 black & white movie version staring Alastair Sim. The International Movie Data Base (IMDb) rated it 8 out of 10, a very high appraisal to say the least.
Then in 1984, George C. Scott starred as the miserly Scrooge in a made-for-TV movie version. IMDb rated it 7.7, almost as good as the old black & white. From my perspective, it’s unlikely that any actor foolhardy enough to take on the role of Scrooge will ever surpass Scott’s masterful portrayal. ‘Tis our family favorite.
Yet, Patrick Stewart (yes, Captain Picard) gave it a shot in 1999. His version was rated 7.2
There’s a Muppet Christmas Carol (1992 rated 7.5); and an animated Christmas Carol with Jim Carey (2009 rated 6.7) as the voice of Scrooge. And a host of musical versions.
So the mystery last week was why did Ms. Karen get us tickets to a playhouse we’ve never heard of, all the way up in Oro Valley no less, for a stage version of a story with which we are very familiar? When I asked her, she said, “I don’t know what got into me. I just thought it would be fun.” And so it was.
The Great American Playhouse is in a typical Oro Valley shopping center on the NW corner of Oracle & Rancho Vistoso. The seating, however, is not typical. Two to four patrons sit at tables covered with red & white table cloths. Each had a basket of popcorn and a menu from which they could order everything from nachos to sandwiches to pizza. And if you choose you can order ice cream & beer (as opposed to beer ice cream). We ordered wine with our nachos & popcorn.
This adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” had two acts separated by an intermission. Following the play, all the performers changed costumes that had been appropriate to gritty old London and came out in really horrid Christmas sweaters so typical of the modern world. And then they put on a rousing old-fashioned olio of song & dance. We were totally unprepared for the Dancing Elvises. We were even less prepared for Dominique, the Italian Christmas Donkey. (No, I am not going to elaborate.)
This adaptation of Dicken’s classic was remarkably faithful to novel’s seasonal themes of generosity, compassion, & good cheer. Yet, I think I’m on solid ground when I say that with occasional quips, such as “What’s in your wallet?”, ’tis a “modern” adaptation as well. From the clearly engaged audience, this highly professional cast teased out the full range of human responses, from belly laughs to an occasional tear. And, in Scene One, actor Sean MacArthur’s Scrooge deserved every “Boo” he got from the audience.
Even though we all knew how the story would end, it was as if we were experiencing “A Christmas Carol” for the first time. By the first intermission, we were wishing we had brought all our friends & family to share the joy.
To the extent we had any quibbles, the younger actors’ performances were a bit stilted.
But the more mature players easily compensated. To our surprise and delight, they were fine actors, good dancers, and, particularly the actresses, possessed beautiful, powerful voices. This was a joyous, high-energy performance. The scenery & lighting were well-done. The piano accompaniment was so good, we quickly forgot that there wasn’t a full orchestra.
We wholeheartedly recommend you gather up the old folks and the young ones and go see “A Christmas Carol” at The Great American Playhouse.
For performance times, ticket prices, and other information, CLICK HERE. The Great American Playhouse is a new company. Their 2014 show schedule is posted on their website. We will certainly go to see “Beatle-Juiced” and probably several others.