The whole point of a play or musical review is to make sure people know enough about a performance to determine if it’s worth seeing or not.
In the case of “Christmas CAROLED,” this review is coming a little late, as there are only four more performances left as of this writing.
Those play times are:
Friday at 8 p.m.
Saturday at 3 and 8 p.m.
Sunday at 3 p.m.
Hopefully tickets are still available, because the Encore’s rendition of almost the entire catalog of classic Christmas music is a treat to behold that will have you feeling the Christmas spirit like never before.
Going into “CAROLED” I personally didn’t think I could get excited about Christmas tunes heard literally hundreds — maybe even thousands — of times at my current age of 34-years-old, but Director and Co-author Dan Cooney has lovingly given the classics a new coat of paint deftly applied with a brush of either humor or reverence, depending on whether the song being performed at that particular moment is Silent Night or All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth).
“I grew up watching Christmas specials in the 60s, 70s and 80s,” Cooney says in the program. “But it’s those gems from the 60s that stand out the most. Reruns by the time I was old enough to enjoy them, they are classics that still stand the test of time.”
It’s obvious that Cooney has backed up this statement of respect for Christmas music from the middle of last century with both an appropriately solid performance and a sparse story that sets up a cast of simple characters for a Scrooge-esque tale that mostly serves as a setup for the more than two dozen musical numbers that fill out the 70-minute single-act production.
Abner Z. Scruggs (William Stutts, Jr.) of stage duo Jacobs & Scruggs is down on his luck due to mistakes made in the past that ultimately led to the dissolution of the act he had going with partner Jack Jacobs (Pete Podolski). From this point on his life becomes a wreck that culminates in him acting very Scroogely on Christmas Eve, during which something fantastical happens that transports him into the past to reunite with his partner for the Christmas special they never finished.
The music takes you on a journey through the final days of Jacob & Scruggs, showing flashes of the mistakes Abner made that ultimately knocked his life off of its trajectory towards happiness and success towards the Ebenezer existence we find our main character in at the start of the show.
The story delivers a poignant message by its unexpected conclusion, but the greatness of the music almost overwhelms the plot. Oftentimes I found myself having to mentally snap back into the idea of a plot at all, thanks to how well the music immerses you in holiday cheer.
Musicians Chris Rayis, Billy Harrington and Andrew Ewing somehow sound like more than their number.
Anne Donevan’s costumes also get an honorable mention, particularly during the more serious, formal songs like Silent Night and O Come All Ye Faithful.
The music alone is worth the price of admission. If I hear these songs performed like this in another 34-years, I’m sure my 68-year-old ears will be just as glad to hear them when we get to that point.