OGDEN — A Christmas Carol is the beloved and iconic story written by Charles Dickens for Christmas in 1843. The Broadway musical adaptation, with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and book by Lynn Ahrens and Mike Ockrent, is a local favorite. And at Ogden Musical Theatre, it is easy to see why.
We all know the story. We use the characters as references for our own Christmas celebrations. Frequently we call the person who hoards money a “Scrooge,” and a very clear idea of what he looks like comes to mind. The story is old, almost a cliché. But beyond what the story, there is a core truth about Scrooge’s attitude that many people can relate to: the holidays can sometimes be a “humbug.”
With so many versions of A Christmas Carol performed across the Wasatch Front every year, why is this script performed so much? The real reason to attend this particular production is Menken’s music. Director Maurie Tarbox has selected a fantastic cast of talented actors who make the music come alive. It is a real treat to hear the many delightful songs, especially the recurring theme “A Place Called Home.” Thanks to Kelli Morris’s exceptional music direction, the ensemble sounded so wonderfully British. The harmonies were tight during the charity men trio, and the angel chorus was so bright and hopeful. The ability to have that many children singing so well together on stage was magical.
Scrooge, played by John Philpott, was a perfect representation of that miserable old man. Philpott’s Scrooge was almost joyful in how awful he treated Bob Cratchit. As a result, it was rewarding to watch, during the final scene, when Scrooge actually connected with his fellow actors, to became the joyful Scrooge. It was a giant payoff for the lousy and mean Scrooge seen at the beginning. Philpott as Scrooge has a tough job. He does not really get a break and must carry the show on his shoulders, as well as Tiny Tim. Philpot works hard on stage, and his relief at the end is palpable.
Tiny Tim, portrayed by Sam Cash, is such a tender part of the story; the character exudes innocence, charity, and pure love. All of these were embodied by the adorable Sam Cash with his sweet voice that carried through the music and touched my heart. It is a treat to see a whole family of Cashes involved in the show. Besides Tiny Tim, we have Bob Cratchit, played by Davin Cash, and the spooky ghoulish Jacob Marley was portrayed by Nick Cash. As Marley, Nick Cash has the devilish number “Link by Link,” and the song is always a crowd-pleaser.
A standout performance is Dylan Panter as young Marley/ the Beadle. I was impressed with Panter’s dedication to each role, his exceptional physicality, and his clean and competent movement. Actors who play multiple characters are often overlooked, but Panter gave a lot of work and care went into making each character a separate, believable person. Additionally, Panter was absolutely delightful in “Abundance and Charity,” performing amazing acrobatics.
Mandie Wood Harris delighted as Mrs. Fezziwig and blew me away with her incredible vocals. Harris’s movement during the Fezziwig balls was delicious to watch (with Marilyn Montgomery choreographing). Again, I enjoyed picking her out of the other scenes, as she was actively engaged in what was happening on stage, always in the moment with focus and vocal strength.
The Egyptian theatre is a treat for the senses. The grand and spacious proscenium stage with the beautifully decorated lobby in the Egyptian theme, is really cool. Watching the sun set and the stars come out, no matter how many times I see it, is always magical. The Egyptian Theatre is celebrating its 100th birthday next year, and is truly a beautiful asset to the theatre community. The stage is large, however, and at times, I felt the characters were very far away, as a lot of action was placed so far upstage.
The lighting by Daniel Garner employed a lot of bright looks, which is typical of a Christmas show, but not typical of a spooky ghost story. The set was very modest, save for the opulence of Scrooge’s bedroom, and a designer was not credited in the playbill. It did not feel to be very Dickensian or set in London, and it would have felt a bit more Christmas if there were snow for the outdoor scenes.
The performance I saw was a final dress rehearsal, and it felt a bit wobbly at times. There were a few sound hiccups, some missed light cues, some projection screen menus, and a few performance flubs. A general audience member probably would not notice most of these, but being familiar with the material, it was a bummer to witness those moment that took me out of the story.
For the most part, Ogden Musical Theatre’s A Christmas Carol is a magical show that will delight families and audiences. The music is lovely, and many will leave the theatre with a song or two stuck in their head and a heart full of love toward their fellow man.