kick-start holiday season
By David Hoffman
Tuesday November 23,
The yuletide season can't begin too
early anymore -- that is, if it begins not with shopping on Black Friday but
instead with "A Broadway Christmas Carol," a true triumph now at MetroStage in Old Town Alexandria. The tongue-in-cheek song
salute to the classic Charles Dickens tale of redemption runs through Dec. 19.
There's very little "bah humbug" as this
high-wattage, all-star cast tackles a timeless tale and gives it new life in
the perfect medium for a musical message of ultimate uplift. Three talented
area performers bring their Broadway-big voices and broad comedic talent to the
completely audience-friendly intimacy of MetroStage
and pull it off with infectious hilarity and brio.
There's the solemn Peter Boyer, who plays skinflint Scrooge
himself, as hard of heart but with a yearning to be good; Donna Migliaccio, on Broadway last year as Emma Goldman in
"Ragtime," who is a true hoot as Scrooge's ghostly partner, Jacob
Marley, and doubles as a delightfully come-hither Ghost of Christmas Present;
and rubber-faced Matt Anderson, clowning in roles from long-suffering Bob Cratchitt to a jumbo-sized Tiny Tim like you've never seen
"A legendary Washington
tradition returns," boasts MetroStage founder
and artistic director Carolyn Griffin, and rightly so. After seven years of
sold-out success at the Round House Theatre in Silver
Spring ended in 2004, this show awaited its long-overdue rebirth.
And its longtime loyal audience will doubtless return, reinforced with a new
wave of people ready for a zingy, singy blend of a
holiday classic juiced up with deft parodies of more than 40 Broadway show
Yes, it's the basic story of Scrooge and the three ghosts,
but enlivened and certainly updated, even with the occasional risque riposte. And the songs come tumbling out. Area
cabaret performer Aaron Broderick, making his MetroStage
debut as music director, is on stage throughout as the pianist --even taking on
the role of the sinister and silent Ghost of Christmas Future, masked at the
keyboard in a nod to "Phantom of the Opera."
In fact, the show is peppered with new takes on Broadway
classics, with lyrics repurposed with a twist for the season -- from shows like
the 1980 hit show "42nd Street," where "We're In the Money"
becomes Scrooge warbling "I'm in the Money," to Tiny Tim's plaintive
pledge "(I'm Going to Walk) Tomorrow" from "Annie" (first
on the Great White Way in 1977), to the lugubrious lament of "The Tale of
Ebenezer Scrooge," based on the opening song from Stephen Sondheim's 1979
musical thriller "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street."
And it's surely no surprise that the Rogers and Hammerstein
1943 classic "Oklahoma" becomes sung as a crowd-pleasing
"Ebenezer" -- with its eight letters just crying out for a rousing
parody boisterously belted out at the finale, which comes all too soon, and
again in curtain call. All this in a show that's a whirligig of costume and
character changes for the cast of three -- with Donna Migliaccio
herself pulling off a lightning round of 23 changes, with a range of wigs and
outfits that must keep someone backstage limber on their fingers and toes.
In fact all those folks backstage match the talents of
those before the footlights. Director Larry Kaye, whose day job is as a trial
attorney, is also a writer and lyricist and clearly knows his moonlighting stuff. Choreographer Nancy Harry also returns to the scene
of this same success, again designing these dance moves with perfection. The
rich and gaudy early Victorian costumes are the work of Janine Gulisano, a Helen Hayes Award nominee usually found on
stage as an actress. And set designer Allison Campbell, chairwoman of the
theater department at Goucher
College in Baltimore, has created a superb, colorful
wrapper for the show, all bedecked in plaid and ribbons and bows.
Kudos also to the author of the book and the clever lyrics
-- Silver Spring resident Kathy Feininger, in demand herself as a director in
the D.C. area but also, for a decade, director of education and outreach at
Round House Theatre, where she midwifed this musical
and now is delighted to see it return, this time in Northern Virginia, where it
is almost certain to become an annual staple for future holidays.
As your own Thanksgiving festivity continues through this
long weekend, and then the time of jingle bells is officially here, take a
well-deserved break from a whirlwind of eating and shopping. The constant
laughter at MetroStage is just the tonic you surely
Deck the halls with
By Jordan Wright
Tuesday, November 23,
On the first day of Christmas my
true love gave to me: 31 well-known Broadway show tunes, 23 wig changes, 20
separate costume changes and 4 sprightly cast members in a theatre with no bad
seats, all in one 90-minute show.
In “A Broadway Christmas Carol”, lyricist Kathy Feininger’s
version of “A Christmas Carol,” spirits, ghosts, an orphan and a class ‘A’
tightwad go classical burlesque to the max. The production, which played to
sold-out audiences at Round House Theatre in Silver Spring
for seven consecutive years, has at last returned to our area after a six-year
From the get-go you’re onto the spoof when “The Woman Who
Isn’t Scrooge” (as she’s referred to in the program) played by Donna Migliaccio, belts out, “deck the halls with lots of show
tunes” to the familiar strains of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to
The very versatile Migliaccio
does a mean Ethel Merman impression and a slinky hip-grinding Mae West (or is
it Sophie Tucker?) character. In “Turn
Back Old Man,” a take-off from “Godspell,” she urges
Scrooge to “Repent and forswear his greedy ways.”
It’s a Vaudevillian Christmas tale from Merry Olde England,
mined gleefully from Charles Dickens. We know what’s going to happen but we
don’t know how we’ll get there as the parodies come at you fast and furious in
this topsy-turvy version with all the holiday trimmings.
Peter Boyer gives us Ebenezer Scrooge as a man in full
played with delicious aplomb when he intros with “I’m
In the Money” cadged from Broadway’s “42nd
Street.” His natty Scrooge is a petty tyrant who
enjoys wielding his power over the local peasantry, in particular his employee,
the kindly and impoverished, Bob Cratchit (referred
to in the program as “The Man Who Isn’t Scrooge”).
Cratchit’s character, along with a host of
other incarnations, is played handily here by Matthew Anderson. Watch for Anderson’s offbeat Tiny Tim and Migliacci’s vamping to shatter your funny bone.
The Cratchits know “It’s a Hard
Knock Life” (yes, Annie, you’re not the only downtrodden Brit). And in a campy
ensemble version of “Phantom of the Opera” called “The Phantom of the Future”
Scrooge comes to his senses. Throughout the antics Anderson
and Migliaccio shape-shift into umpteen roles with
plenty of old-fashioned hoofing, including two-steps, tangos and even the Charleston thrown in for
With so many numbers, characters, and countless surprise
entrances and exits, the timing had better be tight and it is, thanks to the
clever choreography of Nancy Harry and the myriad costume changes engineered by
Costume Designer Janine Gulisano. A tip-top cast with
slick direction from Larry Kaye and reams of comic ditties-with-a-twist add up
to a holly jolly Christmas musical.
A Broadway Christmas
By Gary McMillan
November 23, 2010
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is one of the old
chestnuts of the holiday season without a doubt, as evidenced by the scads of adaptations
whether radio play, film, movie musical or animated feature. MetroStage has opted to make merry with Kathy Feininger’s
show tune-driven riff on the classic tale.
Not an original musical like the versions penned by Bricusse/Fraser (Scrooge) or the Mencken/Ahrens (A
Christmas Carol: The Musical that ran successfully for several years at Madison Square Garden
[and is playing now at Toby's Dinner Theatre]), Feininger’s lyrics are set to
well-known (mostly) Broadway melodies from over two dozen shows. If the story
of everyone’s favorite
irascible, miserly curmudgeon, Ebenezer Scrooge, is all too
familiar, it’s the “Name That Tune” suspense of discovering which songs
Feininger has matched to each scene that
holds the audience. Feininger’s lyrics aptly carry the story although not all
her lines and word choices lie equally well on the metre
– most notably and ear-jarring, a cringe-inducing pronoun juxtaposition in a
song from Avenue Q. Which also raises the issue of song
selection. Audiences will surely recognize songs from the “warhorse”
musicals – Annie, Phantom, Gypsy, My Fair Lady, Oklahoma, and Cats – but some might be left
scratching their heads to place tunes from Avenue Q, Roar of the Greasepaint,
Follies or Thoroughly Modern Millie.
Allison Campbell has designed a Victorian gift box set,
tastefully ornamented in holiday colors with ribbons and bows and wreaths.
Janine Gulisano clothes the players in somber period
attire with attention to detail, when not accessorizing them with a walker
(complete with green dayglo tennis ball feet), a gift
box torso, or wacky candelabra and a mask more befitting a production of La
Cage Aux Folles. Gulisano
had quite a challenge costuming two of the characters, in particular, who are
required to make split second changes in the course of each covering a dozen
roles each. Larry Kaye directs the production like a steam locomotive barreling
down the track, only occasionally giving the cast a ballad break during which
to catch their breaths. Nancy Harry’s choreography ranges from a little soft
shoe to a bit of a waltz and is most fun when it affectionately pokes fun at
the original Broadway material. It’s difficult to lay down some serious dance
when the characters are darting on and off set like bolts of lightening.
The show’s strong suit is its zany quartet of a cast who
milk the laughs out of the material in a manner reminiscent of the parodies
which were a staple of 1950s and ‘60s comedy and variety television shows.
Peter Boyer follows in the footsteps of Alastair Sim,
Cyril Richard, Orson Wells, the brothers Barrymore, Albert Finney, Oscar the
Grouch, Yosemite Sam, Fred Flinstone, Donald Duck,
and Bill Murray, among others, as Mr. Scrooge. Boyer is a decidedly
mild-mannered skinflint. Even while extolling the virtues of workhouses and
jails as solutions to the problem of poverty, and an early grave as a fine way
to resolve the surplus population, he’s not likely to scare the horses or any
children in the audience. He does, however, have a fine voice and an
appealingly sly sense of humor which are well showcased by tunes from Phantom,
Les Miz, and 42nd Street.
Donna Migliaccio and Matthew A.
Anderson, both recently seen in MetroStage’s Musical
of Musicals: The Musical!, each play a dizzying array
of characters with great glee. It’s a wonder that Migliaccio
can remember her new lyrics having delivered award-caliber performances in
several of the shows from which the songs are taken — from Mama Rose (Gypsy) to
Mrs. Lovett (Sweeney Todd). It’s delightful to hear her tear the parodies of
“Turn Back Old Man (Godspell),” “Big Spender (Sweet
Charity),” and the earthy duet with Anderson
in “Master of the House (Les Misérables).” Migliaccio does some amazingly funny turns as the ghost of
Jacob Marley and the Ghost of Christmas Present which I won’t spoil for you. Anderson covers the
waterfront of male roles, from Scrooge’s nephew, the put-upon
clerk, Bob Cratchit, the Spirit of Christmas Past
(think Tim Conway on leave from the Old Ghosts’ Home) and so on. His jaw glides
through a social class compendium of British accents from Upper Crust to
Cockney, and here too it’s amazing he doesn’t trip over his own tongue. His
wistful interpretation of Tiny Tim will bring tears to your eyes — not from sentiment,
I can assure you.
Aaron Broderick is a one-man orchestra on the piano and
also a pivotal player, conjuring up some macabre humor as the Ghost of
Christmas Yet to Come.
It’s fun to second-guess the author by proposing
alternative songs to go with various scenes. For example, Feininger chose “Good
Morning” (Singing in the Rain) for Scrooge’s awakening on Christmas morn, but
how about “Open a New Window” (Mama) or “Before the Parade Passes By” (Hello,
Dolly). Or a recognizable theme song for Scrooge: “If I Were a Rich Man”
(Fiddler on the Roof). Still, it is strange that a show barely a decade old has
such a nostalgic feel to it. Didn’t the cast of “The Carol Burnett Show” do
this thirty some years ago? If they had, they couldn’t have done it better than
this madcap troupe.
A Broadway Christmas
Carol Returns To Metro Stage
By Carla Branch
November 22, 2010
Charles Dickens, Broadway, vaudeville and slapstick collide
merrily in “A Broadway Christmas Carol”, an early gift from Alexandria’s Metro Stage.
The sets are simple but effective, and the four-member cast
is versatile and talented. The familiar characters from Dickens’ novel sing, dance and quip their way through Ebenezer Scrooge’s
transformation from miser to good-hearted philanthropist.
The songs are familiar with a twist. The play opens with “A Broadway Christmas
Carol Tonight” from “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” with
Dickensian lyrics, and closes with “Ebenezer” sung to the tune of the theme
song from “Oklahoma”.
In between are offerings such as “The Phantom of Christmases Yet to Come” from
“The Phantom of the Opera”, “It Sucks to be Thee” from “Avenue Q”, and
“Miserly” sung to the tune of “Wouldn’t It be Loverly”
from “My Fair Lady”.
is “The Woman Who Isn’t Scrooge”. She is, however, Mrs. Cratchit,
Marley, Christmas Present, Belle and others. Her voice is equally delectable as
the vamp, Christmas Present, and the over-burdened Mrs. Cratchit.
She is an award-winning actor in DC theater who went
to Broadway last year to play Emma Goldman in “Ragtime”. She won the Helen Hayes Award in 1992 and
2007 and can be seen at Ford’s Theater in their upcoming production of “Liberty
Peter Boyer, a newcomer to Metro Stage, is convincing as
Scrooge the miser, Scrooge the confused and Scrooge the redeemed. His musical
range and comedic timing are superb. Boyer was last seen at the Baltimore
Shakespeare Festival in “Comedy of Errors” playing Dromio
of Syracuse and has just completed filming “A Modest Suggestion”, an
Matt Anderson, “The Man Who Is Not Scrooge” plays Tiny Tim,
Cratchit and others. His portrayal of Tiny Tim was
particularly hilarious. He most recently played Streffy
in Metro Stage’s production of “Glimpses of the Moon”. He has also performed at
the Kennedy Center and Theatre J.
There is no orchestra but the audience never notices
because of Aaron Broderick, “The Man Behind The
Piano”. Another Metro Stage newcomer, Broderick plays his way flawlessly and
seemingly effortlessly through more than 40 different Broadway tunes. He has
more than 150 orchestra credits in the Baltimore/Washington area and was
nominated for a 2010 Helen Hayes Award for outstanding musical direction for
his work on “Rent” at the Keegan Theatre.
“A Broadway Christmas Carol” runs through Dec. 19, and is
well worth the price of the ticket, which is $45-$50, $250 for students. The
show is a can’t-miss way to ensure a merry holiday season.
Show Tunes Bent To a
Christmas Carol" Put To Comic Effect
By Brad Hathaway
The concept behind Kathy Feininger’s version of’ "A
Christmas Carol" is simple — rewrite the lyrics for some of Broadway’s
most famous songs to fit slots in Dickens’ tale and do it with a sense of
whimsy and wit. The result, at least when performed by a cast of three spirited
professionals with the chops to make the songs work, is an enjoyable if
somewhat predictable short evening that is more fun the more you happen to know
about show music. Half of the fun is to see just which show tunes Feininger
picks for each song slot and then to spot the changes in the lyrics that make
the moment work.
For example, "The Tale of Sweeney Todd" is a
natural for what becomes "The Tale of Ebenezer Scrooge," "A
Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’s" "Comedy Tonight"
is easily changed into "A Broadway Christmas Tonight" and
"Carousel’s" "This Was A Real Nice Clambake" transitions
for the Cratchit family feast into "This Was A
Real Nice Pudding."
Feininger came up with this confection in 1998 when she was
on staff at Bethesda’s
Round House Theatre where it was performed over seven seasons. Since then, it
has been produced around the country and even abroad with a 2005 version in Singapore. She
has made changes over time. She even added one song that didn’t really have a
perfect spot in the plot of Dickens’ story, but was so perfect a fit for the
spirit of the piece that she had the cast explain off-handedly that they have
"a new plot device" and pull out hand puppets to sing "Avenue
Q’s" "It Sucks To Be Me" with a new title — "It Sucks To Be
MetroStage, which had such a hit with
"Musical of Musicals: The Musical" in 2007 that they brought it back
last year, programmed this production because it taps into the same vein of
humor and show-tune mentality, but does so with a holiday theme. Larry Kaye
directs again as he did with "Musical of Musicals" and he teams with
others from that successful effort including choreographer Nancy Harry, set
designer Allison Campbell and sound designer Steve Baena.
They brought in Donna Migliaccio,
who had starred in that earlier hit both times it was staged here, and reunited
her with Matthew A. Anderson, who had been in the 2009 version with her. They
have a chemistry together that makes some of the comic bits work even better
than the material might in less inspired hands. Add Peter Boyer in his MetroStage debut as Scrooge and you have a great trio to
romp their way through the high-spirited script.
Most of the songs fit well without altering too much of the
structure of the song. For example, "Good Morning" from "Singing
in the Rain" fits the need for a song of gladness for Scrooge when he
wakes after his night of spectral visits to discover that he still has the
opportunity to reform. Here, the song becomes "It’s Morning (I’m Not
Dead.)" As Ebenezer Scrooge, Boyer gives it all the delight he can muster,
which happens to be a good deal. He also turns in a rather remarkable rendition
of a lift from "The Phantom of the Opera" here titled "The
Phantom of Christmases Yet to Come" with the help of musical director
Aaron Broderick wearing a phantom’s mask and cloak at
Tiny Tim’s infirmity is introduced with a song lifted from
"Annie" ... ‘"(I’m Going to Walk) Tomorrow." It is too bad
Feininger didn’t include something from "Ragtime" (perhaps Santa
could have made an unscheduled stop on "The Wheels of a Dream"?)
since Migliaccio just completed a run on Broadway in
the revival of that masterpiece.
Janine Gulisano provides
who-knows-how-many costumes for the piece. Quick changes are part of the fun
and each seems to be accompanied by a wig to match. Producing Artistic Director
Carolyn Griffin said Migliaccio changes wigs 23 times
in the 90 minutes of the show. Migliaccio, as the
"Ghost of Christmas Present" and also as some of the characters that
ghost is showing to Scrooge, has to change repeatedly into and out of a red
gift wrapped package costume with a green fright wig.
MetroStage's spoof of 'A Christmas Carol'
is lighthearted holiday fare
By Barbara Mackay
November 23, 2010
In order to ease the theatre-going
public into the holidays, MetroStage is celebrating
with a light-hearted production, "A Broadway Christmas Carol."
Created by Kathy Feininger, the show is a musical spoof of Charles Dickens'
classic Christmas tale, but with a clever twist: the songs that narrate this
"Christmas Carol" are parodies of original Broadway tunes.
The first song of the show, for instance, is from "A
Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum": "Comedy Tonight"
is transformed into "A Broadway Christmas Carol Tonight." Then
"Hey Big Spender" from "Sweet Charity" becomes "Big
Spender (Spend a Little Dime on the Poor.)" and "This Was a Real Nice
Clambake" from "Carousel" becomes "This was a Real Nice
"A Broadway Christmas Carol" retells the Dickens
story with the help of only three actors and one pianist, all of them extremely
talented performers. Peter Boyer plays Ebenezer Scrooge, the perfect embodiment
of the stingy old crank at the beginning of the show. Boyer is a talented,
agile dancer as well as a powerful singer and his crisp performance is
essential to the success of "Christmas Carol."
Matthew A. Anderson plays The Man Who Isn't Scrooge and a
variety of other characters, including The Ghost of Christmas Past, Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim. One of his most hilarious numbers is
"Try to Remember" from "The Fantasticks."
appears to Ebenezer Scrooge as the Ghost of Christmas Past, a wreath around his
forehead, trying to get Scrooge to view the past in order to understand the
present. Like Boyer, Anderson
is an excellent dancer and is particularly delightful in all his comic roles.
The third actor of the group is Donna Migliaccio,
whose abilities as singer, dancer and comedienne are unparalleled. Playing The
Woman Who Isn't Scrooge, Migliaccio is superb -- as
Mrs. Cratchit, Belle, and even Jacob Marley, among
other roles. One of her funniest appearances is as a reincarnated Mae West,
dressed in pink-satin and wearing a platinum wig. Another is as The Ghost of
Christmas Present, where she sings "Touch Me" from "Cats"
while dressed as a huge Christmas present.
"A Broadway Christmas Carol" could not exist
without the presence of the music director and pianist, Aaron Broderick.
Although he is there primarily to accompany the three singers, Broderick
actively participates in the action at one point, where he wears a black satin
hood and white half mask. He has a chance to sing while Anderson, holding a chandelier, and Migliaccio in a red mask belt out "The Phantom of
Christmases Yet to Come."
As the show reproduces Sondheim's difficult harmonies and
Rodger's and Hammerstein's lilting "Do-Re-Mi," as it tumbles from
to "Gypsy" and "Singing in the Rain," Scrooge begins to
alter and eventually admits he has changed. He sings "Miserly," based
on "Wouldn't it be Loverly" from "My
Fair Lady." And so Dickens' story ends.
Allison Campbell's colorful set uses two doors on either
side of a stage within a stage, providing many places for actors to enter and
leave. Janine Gulisano's costumes include seemingly
inexhaustible changes of Victorian dress and wigs.
Director Larry Kaye and choreographer Nancy Harry keep the
movement of "A Broadway Christmas Carol" percolating, ensuring that
endless entrances and exits flow smoothly.
The show is extremely enjoyable whether you've seen the
original Broadway productions or not. And there's an intriguing side benefit to
"A Broadway Christmas Carol," if laughter isn't enough for you:
you'll appreciate how marvelous the great Broadway music of the past and
present is -- even when it's heard without the usual lyrics.
MetroStage mounts a zany, spirited spoof
By Doug Rule
December 2, 2010
''Deck the halls with lots of showtunes,''
Donna Migliaccio sings in the opening number of A Broadway Christmas Carol. And that, she does. By the end of the show, the halls are
overstuffed with showtune snippets -- 40 or so in
all. They're presented in a hurried, altered, name-that-tune kind-of-way, a gaudy effect that distracts from the story -- but then if
you must deliberate on the finer points of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, you really need to
get out more often.
A Broadway Christmas Carol succeeds on account of its zany, spirited sense of
staging, and its willingness to not only spoof but mock tradition, especially
the moralizing sensibility to Dickens's tale. Migliaccio
seems to be having great fun onstage -- so much so, the accomplished actress
sometimes struggles to stay in character, such as while singing as an Avenue Q puppet. Joining her in the
revelry is Matthew A. Anderson, in multiple roles, and Peter Boyer, who mostly
plays it straight (he plays Ebenezer Scrooge, after all).
A Broadway Christmas
Carol is touted as
a companion to MetroStage's wonderful hit spoof of
all-things-Broadway The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!).
Though it has its moments -- the comparisons of Scrooge to Sweeney Todd and
Tiny Tim to Annie, say -- it's not quite that clever. (There's no original
music here, for one.) It's also not quite that quick -- at least I don't
remember Musical dragging the way Carol does. The first act could use
But then Act Two comes and goes so quickly, you'll be
singing a new tune by show's end. Specifically, to the tune
of a certain Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, ''Eb-e-ne-zer.