THE BASICS: A CHRISTMAS CAROL, in its 36th year adapted and directed by Neal Radice, featuring David C. Mitchell as “Scrooge,” previewed on December 6 and opens on December 7, running through Sunday, December 23, Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 5, and Sundays at 2 at the Alleyway Theatre. The theater entrance is “One Curtain Up Alley” which is the pedestrian walkway connecting Pearl and Main Streets running between the Alleyway and Shea’s. Arrive 20-30 minutes early for caroling by a delightful quartet. As a fundraiser, souvenir shirts, ornaments, etc. are for sale. Caroling and photo-ops before and after. (852-2600). www.alleyway.comCancellations due to inclement weather only when the City of Buffalo imposes an official driving ban. On stage runtime (not counting caroling before and after): 90 minutes with one intermission.
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: For the 36th year Alleyway faithfully (see last year’s review) presents the well-known story of the malicious, mean and miserly, misanthropic Scrooge who is visited by the three very convincing spirits of Christmas past, present, and future, followed by his change of heart, enjoyably presented in a traditional manner set in London, 1843, with a clever stage setting, all the way from the famous prologue – “Old Marley was as dead as a doornail” – to Tiny Tim’s “bless us everyone” at the curtain.
THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: Returning to the stage and very comfortable in their roles are, in addition to David C. Mitchell, James Cichocki, Joyce Stilson, and young Allison Barsi. The caroling quartet, who take on many acting roles during the show proper, are, in S-A-T-B order: Emily Yancey, Lauren McGowan (debut), David G. Poole, and Roger VanDette. New to this production, although so well-rehearsed you’d think they’ve been doing this a long time, were, besides Ms. McGowan, John Panepinto, Noah Doktor, Isabella Teter, and the tiniest Tiny Tim I’ve ever seen, Oliver Sanders.
There are no awkward moments with this cast. If you read the credits of the company in the program, you may be surprised to see the long list of credits for the children, for example 10th grader Allison Barsi (Fanny/Martha) who has already appeared in 35 different shows, not to mention kindergartener Oliver Sanders’ many modeling jobs.
I’m not sure when you would have time to read, however, because once the four carolers enter the Alleyway’s lobby, sing, then process on to the stage, the show moves non-stop, seamlessly right into the prologue and we’re off! This lack of fussiness makes A CHRISTMAS CAROL ideal for children. I certainly know that our family loved it back in the day. The play is not that long (90 minutes, including intermission), the scenes are short, the scene changes are immediate (including one where tiny Tiny Tim is quickly whisked off by his armpits – that drew a big laugh from the audience), and kids love to see other kids on stage. So, instill a love of theater now, and reap the rewards later.
I don’t think that I have to convince you that this is something that you should do. You know that. I think my job here is to convince you to get your tickets before it sells out, as it tends to do every year.
Alleyway Executive Director Neal Radice and his crew spend a great part of the Alleyway season searching out and presenting brand new plays (see UP NEXT) which is always an artistic and financially dicey proposition, and God bless them for doing that. And many of them contain adult themes. But one thing that I find so impressive is that on the other hand, they annually turn to A CHRISTMAS CAROL and pour the same amount of love and attention into this family-friendly tradition. Good for you, Alleyway! Good for you.
Lead image: Roger VanDette as Christmas Present, credit Gayle Petri
UP NEXT: A VERY, VERY TRUMPY CHRISTMAS CAROL is a send up and mash up of A CHRISTMAS CAROL overlaid with contemporary American politics running simultaneously in the “front” (the Main Street end) of the Alleyway Theatre called Alleyway’s “Main Street Cabaret,” at 672 Main Street (852-2600). It also opens on December 7 and runs through December 23.
BRIDGE OF ROSES with music by Giovanna Albani and Daniele Maugeri has star crossed lovers challenge the forces of politics, bigotry and war in a new, passionate symphonic rock musical, suitable for adults and teens. It will run February 7 through March 2, 2019, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.
BUFFALO QUICKIES, the 28th Annual One-Act Play Celebration directed by Joyce Stilson, suitable for adult audiences, it runs from April 11 through May 4, 2019, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!