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Review: 'A Christmas Carol: The Musical' at Centenary Stage Company

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For a decade you would have had to journey across the Hudson to Madison Square Garden to see the Family Holiday Spectacular: "A Christmas Carol: The Musical." Instead, you now can take the relatively short route to the Centenary Stage Company in Hackettstown (just off US 46) to see this beloved Christmas classic performed by a cast of 75. This outstanding version is from the Broadway team of Alan Menken ("Beauty and the Beast," "Little Mermaid,"), Lynn Ahrens ("Ragtime," "Seussical") and Mike Okrent ("Crazy For You," "Me and My Girl.” "A Christmas Carol: The Musical" is a marvelous all-family treat with beautiful melodies and sparkling dancing. The cast, many of whom are repeating their roles from the acclaimed 2011 production, includes professional Equity actors, members of the Young Performers Workshop (YPW), Centenary theatre students, and local performers.

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Directing "A Christmas Carol: The Musical" is Broadway veteran, Michael Blevins. Not only has he masterfully guided this enormous cast as director, but he is the choreographer. Blevins has impressively staged the dancing numbers that range from smooth party dancing to energetic tap dancing to an exciting, precision kick line.

Leading Bevins' cast is another Broadway veteran, Osborn Focht as Scrooge (photo above). Focht, also repeating his 2011 star turn, is a perfect "humbug" Scrooge, never too menacing for the junior members of the audience, properly humorous for adults. Focht displays a a fine singing voice and remarkable agility on his feet.

Other returning performers include: James Nester as Bob Cratchit; Dave Scheffler as The Ghost of Marley; Jeremy Hilgert as Mr. Fezziwig; singer-dancer Lea Antolini-Lid as The Ghost of Christmas Past; dancer Sarah Lichty as The Ghost of Christmas Present; David Yawger as Tiny Tim, Maria Brodeur as Granny Pickwick; and Carl Wallnau, the CSC Artistic Director, as the Beadle.

Other key members of the cast ​are: Gloria Lamoureux as Scrooge's housekeeper, Mrs. Mops;​ Tyler Milazzo as Mrs. Crachit, Erin Martire as young Martha Crachit; Nick Ardito-Martelli as the widower Mr. Smythe and young Olivia Berlingerio as his daughter Grace.

One of the many​ musical highlights is the visit of the ghost of Jacob Marley (Dave Scheffler) to Scrooge's bed chamber. It becomes a large-scale musical production number ("Link By Link"), featuring a​n energetic ​​group of 19 singing and dancing spirits presented with various levels of makeup and special effects.

Scrooge's big number is "Nothing to Do With Me", when he first encounters the three ghosts of Christmas in their real-world guises as a lamplighter (Ghost of Christmas Past- Lea Antolini-Lid), a sandwich board man (Ghost of Christmas Present- ​Erik Gaden​), and a blind beggar woman who makes a dramatic transformation (​Ghost of Christmas Future- dancer Sarah Lichty).​ Antolini-Lid, in fine voice and form, is impressive as Scrooge's agile guide through his past. Sarah Lichty is the dancing stand-out of the production.

​Special mention is also in order for the wonderful contributions of some of the youngest members of the cast: ​David Yawger as Tiny Tim; Erin Martire as young Martha Crachit; Teax Armijo as Jonathan and, in particular, ​Olivia Berlingerio as Grace Smythe.

Key production credits: Carl Wallnau and Catherine Rust producers; Julia Sharp costumes​; Ed Matthews light design; Dominick DeMatteo stage manager; Tom Fagerholm technical director; Dani Pietrowski and Jackie Mariani props; Jordan Janota set design. The musical director is David Maglione. Musicians: Gabe Valle; Richard Dispenziere; Joe Christianson; Peter Lin; Ben Kovacs, Shire Fiengold and Ryan Palermo.

The Centenary Stage production is a 90 minute condensed version of the standard non-musical Dickens story, not as dark as the original with bright joyful music...Scrooge and company should not frighten any young people, while the tuneful music and spirited cast of seasoned lead actors and an energetic ensemble of students from the Centenary drama program and the CSC's Young Performers Workshop will please all but a modern day Ebenezer. Bottom line...you will leave the theatre with the proper joyous holiday spirit.

​Reviewed by Rick Busciglio November​ 30, 2013

​Performances for “A Christmas Carol” are Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2 PM, Wednesday December 4 at 2 pm, and Wednesday, December 11 at 10 am (school matinee).

Ticket prices are $27.50 for adults on Matinees and Fridays and $29.50 on Saturdays with discounts for seniors, students and children under 12. Thursday evening tickets are $27.50 with a two-for-one Family Night discount when purchased at the door.

There will also be two performances where Scout Troops can get a discount when coming as a group. Friday, December 6th and Friday, December 13th scouts and their leaders can purchase tickets at $15 when they come in uniform. Reservations are required.

Tickets may be purchased online at www.centenarystageco.org, at the CSC Box Office in The Lackland Center at 715 Grand Ave in Hackettstown, or by calling 908-979-0900. The Box Office is open Monday through Friday 1-5 p.m., and 2 hours prior to performance times. CSC also operates a second Box Office during the season at 217 Main Street in Hackettstown open Monday through Friday 3-6 p.m. where patrons can enter to win dinner for two at Prickly Pear Restaurant.

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