Playing thru December 22, 2011

CENTERVILLE — I adore Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. I see it every Christmas season and performed in it myself (once while I was 8 months pregnant—thank goodness for hoop skirts!). I love not only its story, but also the way it emotionally and spiritually impacts me. I go into a performance of A Christmas Carol expecting to have a transformative experience in which I, with Scrooge, evaluate myself and find the will to be a little more of what I ought to be, especially at Christmas.

CenterPoint Legacy Theatre delivered with a musical production of Madison Square Garden’s A Christmas Carol, a version of the classic tale which packs passion, love, and the Christmas spirit. Everything about the performance worked together to create the emotional and spiritual environment this story needs—from the multi-layered stage conveying the streets of London (with second-story windows that actors actually performed from), the mood-shifting lighting, the authentic appearing and richly colored costumes, and the performances of the actors themselves.

You simply can’t have a successful A Christmas Carol without a great Ebenezer Scrooge, and Nick Cash does not disappoint in this role.. He was believable being perfectly detestable at first, then undergoing a strong but gradual transformation. He was especially compelling in his scene that follows the departure of the Ghost of Christmas Future, in which he commits to repent and change the course of his life. And his singing voice—warm, broad, and always on—was perfect for the role.

Another standout performer was Matthew Green as the upbeat, bubbly Ghost of Christmas Past. He made me laugh every time he was onstage. Also notable was Kyra Finlinson as the Ghost of Christmas Future, which is a role that typically does not allow for much characterization from the actor. In this rendition, however, the Ghost of Christmas Future is given a new dynamic as an “undercover” blind beggar and as a dancer in white. Finlinson provided solid acting, major vocal power, and a stunning grace and beauty in her dancing. Scrooge’s young love interest, Emily (Kristina Hutchings), though only briefly onstage also made an impact. Hutchings’s voice was gorgeous, and she performed the contrasting scenes of proposal and then breakup beautifully.

Even with these talented principle actors, the show could not have flourished without a talented ensemble. I loved the energy and enthusiasm the ensemble. Music Director Vicki Belnap deserves recognition, as it is quite a task to get an ensemble to vocally blend, spit-and-chew diction, and (of course) project—all at the same time, but they pulled it off. Every song that had the entire ensemble performing was beautiful and I could understand every word. The Fezziwigg party scene involving most—if not all of the cast—was so engaging I found myself grinning ear-to-ear and wanting to dance along. The choreography was well-done and well-executed by the dancers, making the party a delight to watch.

I do have to mention my personal favorite performer of the night, young Brigham Inkley, whose Jonathan (the beggar boy who is rebuffed by Scrooge at the beginning, then helps Scrooge get the prize turkey in the end) was so funny I’m pretty sure I snorted a few times laughing so hard. This kid is a major talent to watch—he probably had less than 10 lines, if that, yet he delivered every line perfectly.

Though Inkley was fun to watch, all the kids in the show were adorable and talented. The orphan choir made me teary eyed every time they sang. They sounded lovely and had such a sweet innocence it was impossible not to be touched whenever they sang.

There were a few things that could have been improved. Marley’s scene was a bit on the dry side for me; I just didn’t find Marley scary enough to warrant Scrooge’s needed reaction, but maybe they were trying to not scare the kids? However, the zombie-inspired dancers that enter toward the end of the scene made up for the slow start. Who doesn’t love a good old fashioned zombie dance?

Also, I had a hard time hearing the ensemble whenever they sang in small groups, particularly the small women’s group that sang parts throughout the night. I don’t think they were miked which hopefully can be corrected sometime throughout the run.

I loved this performance, and not just because of my personal affection for the material. Every element combined to make me feel Christmas—so much so that I think I left the theater a little better than I entered. If you can get to Centerville, please do—this is a must-see holiday show.

Madison Square Garden’s A Christmas Carol plays at CenterPoint Legacy Theatre (525 N. 400 W., Centerville) Mondays through Saturdays at 7:30 PM, with Saturday matinees at 2:30 PM through December 22. Tickets are $15–18. For more information, visit