“Scrooge” – Arizona Theatre Company

Theater Review – December 10, 2023


Arizona Theatre Company, Center Stage, Tempe Center for the Arts
Tempe, AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

Arizona Theatre Company has found the perfect holiday show with its glistening production of the reworked 1992 Leslie Bricusse musical “Scrooge.”  This “Scrooge” does not have the evil and malicious Ebenezer seen in many shows based on Charles Dickens’ melancholy “A Christmas Carol.”

“Scrooge’s” Ebenezer is still a miserly and mean-spirited bah-humbugging Christmas avoider because his troubled youth never made the holiday joyous.  He throws curves at his faithful worker Bob Cratchit and his sickly son Tiny Tim until he is haunted by his late business partner, Jacob Marley, and the Ghosts of Christmas’s Past, Present, and Yet-To-Come who teach him about compassion and the joy of sharing his success.  It transforms him to celebrate the holiday with those he has chastised for participating in Yuletide Festivities.

ATC’s Artistic Director Matt August has staged “Scrooge” with merriment, gusto, and shimmering spirit as a large cast sing well, dance jubilantly, and become the town’s residents with passionate honesty.  August’s swirlingly fluid direction is aided by choreographer Spencer Liff’s period dances and further enhanced by Jason Ardizzone-West’s storybook theater design which sets the show in a period theater that greets the audience upon arrival and is then brought to life. Elizabeth Caitlin Ward’s colorful costumes splash the production but period hoop skirts should hit the floor and not ride inches off the ground to make it easier on the women who walk in the lush dresses.

Author Bricusse has written several major shows including “Stop the World – I Want to Get Off,” “The Roar of the Greasepaint,” and “Pickwick.”  Each of these popular musicals contains a standout song but the “Scrooge” score, while pleasant is undistinguished and lacks a showstopping number.  The book captures the essence of Dickens’ novel while eliminating unnecessary detail but not leaving out the show’s critical message – the importance of honoring each individual and their contribution to our lives.  It also runs two hours, perfect for young audiences.

The impressive cast is headed by Broadway star Shuler Hensley who commands the stage initially as the stingy Ebenezer impressed by his success but transforms beautifully into the generous and understanding Scrooge just before the final curtain. Karmine Alers’ Ghost of Christmas Past, Geoffrey F. Belliston’s Ghost of Christmas Present, and J Savage’s Ghost of Christmas Yet-To-Come are all bigger-than life as they influence Scrooge.  Chris Will’s Bob Cratchit is eternally optimistic and spunky Beni Bermudez’s Tiny Tim is heartbreakingly sincere.  Alan J. Plado’s orchestra plays jovially.

ATC’s “Scrooge” is another of the area’s fine holiday attractions.  It will become an annual show. “Scrooge” continues through December 30 at the Tempe Center for the Arts.  Tickets may be purchased by calling the Arizona Theatre Company box office at 833-ATC-SEAT or ordered online at www.atc.org.

Grade: A