A Happy Return for SCROOGE

by Jessica Martin

Bruce A. Curless in the Ritz Theatre Company’s SCROOGE, THE MUSICAL.

After a year’s absence, SCROOGE, THE MUSICAL has been brought back to the Ritz Theatre in Haddon Township by popular demand. Although it is listed as “in concert,” it is a handsome full-scale production with costumes and movement. The premise is that it is being presented as an entertainment for children at a party.

There have been countless dramatic versions and adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL and countless actors have played Ebenezer Scrooge. Some of us still remember Lionel Barrymore’s performance as the old skinflint on radio. Alistair Sim is considered the best portrayer of Scrooge on screen. But to Ritz patrons, Bruce A. Curless is Scrooge. The producing artistic director of the Ritz, also a fine actor (and director, including this show), has been playing the character for over 20 years (off and on, but mostly on) and has made it his own. His transformation from miserly curmudgeon to warm-hearted benefactor is thoroughly believable and lovable.

Bruce A. Curless as SCROOGE.

Bruce A. Curless as SCROOGE.

Of the eight other major cast members, two ( Ryan Ruggles and Janet Wilkie) play multiple roles so skillfully that you are scarcely aware of their changing from one character to the other—except for one hilarious scene in which Ruggles has to play both the Spirit of Christmas Present and Scrooge’s nephew. Wilkie is especially memorable as Mrs. Cratchit and the Spirit of Christmas Past. Ken Funkhouser resumes the role of Bob Cratchit for the fifteenth time. Aden Stephens is touching as Tiny Tim. And let us not forget the Center Stage Dance Ensemble, lovely ballerinas who gracefully set the mood for each scene.

The music is well done, from Scrooge’s “I Hate People” and the Urchins’ mocking “Father Christmas” in the first act to “I Like Life” and the sincere repeat of “Father Christmas” in the second. There are also beautiful and lively songs to which the dancers perform. The “sets” are projections on a background screen, and they are imaginative and colorful.

No matter how many times we’ve seen this timeless classic, it still has something to say to us, and this version says it in a truly delightful way. Thanks to the Ritz for bringing it back.

Based on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”
Music and Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse
Stage Direction by Bruce A. Curless
Vocal Direction by Andre Vermeulen
Choreography by Kelly Gillin and Kate Medlitz
December 6-16, 2012
Ritz Theatre Company
915 White Horse Pike
Haddon Township, NJ 08137

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