Dec 18, 2014

[Theater] Scrooge (Repertory Philippines)

This play marks the last show in this year's Repertory Philippines line-up. When we had first booked our tickets for the season at the start of the year, we had the option to only get the straight plays or include the musicals as well. Personally I was only interested in Scrooge and Pinocchio was a side bonus at best. But since it was cheaper to get all of them bundled together instead of buying Scrooge tickets separately, we went in for the full deal.

What had most drawn us to want to see Scrooge was the fact that Miguel Faustmann was set to play the titular role. So it was a little disappointing when we found ourselves watching an alternate cast with a different actor in the leading role. And while the show was still decent, it wasn't quite as fulfilling as we had expected the show to be.

But hey, those are the risks of booking tickets so far ahead. There's little to no chance of adjusting to casting changes made during the season, and Repertory Philippines seems to have a bit of a pattern of behavior in this department in recent years. Just look at the bait and switch that happened with The Graduate.

Synopsis: Scrooge is a stage musical with book, music and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse based on the Charles Dickens story, A Christmas Carol. The Repertory Philippines staging ran from November 21 - December 4, 2014 at the Greenbelt OnStage Theater as directed by Baby Barredo.

Much like the original book, the play's titular character is Ebenezer Scrooge (Chinggoy Alonso / Miguel Faustmann), a miser of a moneylender who hates Christmas. It has been some time since his former business partner Jacob Marley died and now his only company is the overworked Bob Cratchit (Chino Veguillas). The whole town seems to hate Scrooge given his hold over most of them given their debts together with his miserable attitude. Even his nephew Harry (Arnel Carrion) is unable to get Scrooge to embrace the holiday spirit, receiving only repeated "humbugs" from his uncle.

But then Scrooge is visited by Marley's ghost (Raul Montesa), who warns him that his greedy ways will result in a fate similar to his own - burdened by the weight of his greed and doomed to roam the Earth in misery. But Scrooge has a last change to change his ways - Marley warns that he is to be visited by three different spirits who will show him the consequences of his action. But then it will left up to him to make his decision about how to live his life moving forward.

Alonso's past theater credits include King Arthur in Camelot and Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, all of which sort of make sense given his singing style. He switches between that sort of almost operatic Richard Harris style or Rex Harrison's spoken word style singing. This works in a general sense, but there were times he'd go flat a lot, which may be because of an inability to hear himself or it's maybe just a question of age. It wasn't an outright bad performance the afternoon that we watched, but it wasn't quite his best either.

We really enjoyed the effort into the costumes for the townsfolk. I can't necessarily speak as an authority on their historical accuracy, but they looked authentic enough overall. And they were still functional enough to support the various performances and dance routines. Accents were all over the place, but I suppose that was to be expected. Most didn't sound too offensive in this regard, but there were still the occasional lapses that sounded a little cartoony.

The ghosts were generally okay, except maybe for the costume that they selected for the Ghost of Christmas Past (as played by Cara Barredo). Her acting wasn't that bad, but the costume was distracting. All the others had their moments to shine and there was some serious UV make-up and paint in play for the various sets and characters, especially with Jacob Marley. We really got a kick out of Marley's initial scene with the flying chains and the glowing skeletons - pure theater magic.

Special mention has to go out to Gabo Tiongson's performance as Tiny Tim. The little guy has quite the voice and he has a strong future as a performer as long as he continues to hone his craft. I always get a kick out of how Repertory Philippines puts a lot of work into cultivating future theater talent with its various productions.

We also really enjoyed the fact that Repertory made sure to utilize a live orchestra for this performance. Their past shows tend to rely on canned music and sound effects and this time around at least the music was live. It really added the right feel for the show as a musical, and I hope they manage to factor this into their future productions.

On the whole, Scrooge as a musical was decent enough although it's hard to get away from the preachy core message at the heard of Dickens' story. The show could have used a bit more polish and maybe a few different casting choices, but on the whole it was okay and at least didn't look like some grade school theater production. Thus the show gets a fair 3 kooky townsfolk characters out of a possible 5.

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