Saturday, December 06, 2003

Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge (Cleveland Public Theatre)


On stage there is Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit, Ghost of Christmas Past, Ghost of Christmas Present, Ghost of Christmas Future. It’s obvious that you’re seeing Dicken’s ‘CHRISTMAS CAROL.’ Wait, there are scenes from ‘OLIVER TWIST,’ ‘IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE’ AND ‘THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP.’ Throw in references to ‘PETER PAN’ and ‘MY FRIEND FLICKA.’ No, this is definitely not ‘CHRISTMAS CAROL.’

Let’s look at this a little closer. The ghost who visits Scrooge just can’t get things right. Mrs. Bob Cratchit (did you know her name was Gladys?) is unhappy with everyone and everything in her life. Her breaking point comes when Bob arrives with their 21st foundling. She wants to go to a bar, down a few Tequila Surprises and jump off the London Bridge. Imagine her relief to find that she is simply placed in the wrong time period and is Scrooge's soul mate. In playwright Christopher Durang’s hands, Scrooge’s famous line “Bah Humbug” isn’t just a casual dismissal of Christmas joy, it’s seasonal Tourette’s Syndrome. Eventually everything is eventually rectified by the Ghost of all three Christmases.

The CPT production, under the direction of Randy Rollison, is often funny, often hilarious, but also misses some of the laughs due to poor line interpretation. The singing also covers the broad realm of possibilities...some of the voices are wonderful, others are off-key.

Meg Chamberlain is outstanding as Gladys Cratchit. Dan Kilbane is a delightful 6-foot Tiny Tim who trips and falls with ease while looking like a grinning idiot who is in an advertisement for laser tooth polishing. David Hansen is properly clueless as Bob Cratchit. Nina Dominque is inconsistent as The Ghosts. Her singing voice lacks polish and her line interpretation varies from excellent to unbelievable. The children in the cast needed more directoral assistance to aid them to stay in character.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: If you aren’t in the right mood...silly; aren’t willing to set aside some amateur production qualities; and think that Christmas is a sincere holiday, then you’ll be turned off by ‘MRS. BOB CRATCHIT’S WILD CHRISTMAS BINGE.’ On the other hand, if you've seen one too many productions of ‘A CHRISTMAS CAROL’ and, upon hearing Tiny Tim optimistically proclaim "God bless us every one!’" you wish someone would expose him for the attention-grabbing urchin he is, get in your sleigh and go see the Cleveland Public Theatre’s production of ‘MRS. BOB CRATCHIT’S WILD CHRISTMAS BINGE.’